Shortly before I left for Haiti, I spoke with my friend Stef. She mentioned that the biggest struggle she had upon coming back from a foreign missions trip was guilt. Guilt for what she had. Guilt for having more opportunities than the people she had just spent time with. Guilt for the excess and access we have here in America.
With that in mind, I prepared myself for the guilt I was sure would come to me.
It had to come, right?
I mean, I was going to a 3rd world country, where the unemployment rate is 80%, literacy is at 50% and the people are living in even more abject poverty than they were before the earthquake.
Day 1 - nothing
Day 2 - the start of something?
Day 3 - .....
Day 4 - .....I must be such a horrible person
Day 5 - BAM - it hit me. And I wept inside. Shuddering, harsh, deep sobs that no one could see but inside I knew they were there.
What happened on Day 5?
They stopped being "the Haitian people", and they became my friends.
Friends who bent over backwards and probably went without so we could share a traditional Haitian feast.
Friends who dressed up and looked their best because we were coming to meet and fellowship with them.
People who I didn't even know existed five days before, but now had found a way into my heart and I could not let go.
When we left Canaan later that day, I was pretty quiet. It was a lot to take in and process.
In fact, the last two weeks have been totally silent on my blog, because I just couldn't wrap my head around the experience enough to write about it.
But there I was, sitting on my bunk, wondering how in the heck I could go back to America and not feel incredibly uneasy about my attitude towards my blessings.
The more I thought about it, I realized that what I was feeling could not honestly be labeled as guilt. For as the definition states, guilt is an emotion you have when you have done something wrong. My heritage and the family I was born into was not my choice, nor was it wrong. So then what felt so uncomfortable about it?
I began to realize that I have never in my life lost sleep over the fact that someone else might be without.... And that's a convicting and somewhat embarrassing thought.
I don't think twice about where my next meal is coming from, nor do I wonder where I will get a pair of shoes and socks.
My friends do. And that's hard.
What next though?
Perspective and an honest appreciation for the plight and situation of others is all fine and dandy. However, if action doesn't follow it, it is nothing but a momentary breeze of good intentions.
So what's my action plan? I don't know yet. Still seeking and searching.
But what I can tell you is this - the value of a dollar and how I spend it has a deeper meaning than it did a month ago.
The comfort of my bed is bittersweet. And the access to clean, fresh drinking water shames me when I think of how I have at times been wasteful.
Janet, Marckenson and their family made Haiti real for me. For that I am eternally grateful and blessed beyond measure by their pure, freely given love.
Guilt won't change anything.