a callused heart

by Kayla Raymond

I’ve been reminiscing on my very first few moments in Haiti. Moments that happened nearly four years ago. We stepped off the airplane and out into the streets of Port-au-Prince, a place you can’t imagine until you experience it all on your own. At the time there was no open area to catch your breath, like there is now. You were just thrown into the chaos. It was also the first time in my life that I was a complete minority.

We drove away from the airport in an old school bus that felt like it could fall apart at any moment. I remember thinking, “What the @#!$ is my dad doing bringing us to this place? How will I ever survive here for an entire week?”

Jokes on me, I guess, since I live here full-time now!

But, little by little, my heart broke into a million tiny pieces. Children latched on, little eyes locked eyes with mine and ever since I’ve been a mess, more or less.

My life just hasn’t made much sense. Or is it that my life had never made sense before Haiti and now it does? I’m not quite sure, I guess it’s what I’m trying to figure out.

But from the very beginning moments, I remember my desire to spend time in the villages. Trying to figure out how they do it, how do they really survive living like this? I always complained having to share a bathroom with my sister, but these people? They’re happy if they have running water in their village, let alone their home.

I remember in the beginning moments always trying to peak down the hidden paths. I wanted to see what was behind the gates, I wanted to venture onto the unknown. I remember zooming past all these little hidden alleys while on the bus, and I tried so hard to catch even the slightest glimpse as to what their lives must be like.

And now so many moments, so many days, even years, have passed since those beginning moments of heartbreak and fear.

The first time I cried (like the sobbing, shaking, ugly cry) happened in Madam Lucian’s orphanage. We were handing out dum dum suckers and after a few minutes I looked down and a small girl, probably no older than 2-years-old, was at my feet crying. She was too small to reach high enough to be seen and grab a sucker. To relieve her fear of not getting a sucker, I bent down, picked her up and personally unwrapped and gave her a sucker. A moment later, I picked up another small girl.

Within moments the first little girl, the one who had worked so hard to get her sucker in the first place, began sharing with the second little girl. Such a simple act of kindness. Of sharing. She taught me so much in that simple moment and I guess since then I have been trying to be a little more like her.
(And who would have known that my parents would rescue a dying boy from there several months later and that my first adopted son would also come from the same orphanage!)

There have been so many other moments like those on this journey. But, there have been some bad ones too. I talk about the kindness, but I’ve definitely seen the greed. I’ve been taken advantage of and the feeling of being expected to give, give, give can just wear a person out. To tell you the truth, I’ve been feeling a little worn out.

Then the other day, it was a busy and weird day. But, I found myself in Port-au-Prince driving past it all again: the garbage, the beggars, the homeless, the tents, the everything. The drive brought me back to that first initial bus ride, when I was thinking, “what the @#!$ , dad?”

My heart has been shattered and broken so many times since that drive. But, the feeling of being worn down makes it seem more callused. More hard. And I don’t want to go back to having a hard heart. So, I debated with myself.

How do you continue moving forward, dealing with all the junk (by junk, I’m talking about the lady who wanted me to take her baby, to the ex-prostitute who just wants to take advantage of the white people, to the sick 3-year-old who threw up in my lap, to the obnoxious amount of work we go to just to have land in Haiti, etc…….- this all being stuff that happened within one weird day) without becoming a crazy person? Without letting your heart become hard and your money run dry? Without losing motivation and passion for whom you’re serving?

And then it happens…

I was walking up the mountainside to visit the Noel family. The children saw me coming from a far and started chanting, “Meh Kayla, aaaa, meh Kayla, aaa!” Like my own little cheer crowd.

All it takes is a moment.

It’s all worth it, you know? We hugged, we laughed, I screamed and jumped when a cockroach jumped out of a bucket, we laughed some more! We cheered “BRAVO” as momma had another successful day selling fish. She’s finally getting back onto her own two feet. We talked about how Jesus is good, and laughed some more.

It’s about realizing it’s all about the moments. There are big ones, good ones and unfortunately too many bad and disappointing ones. There’s lots of work and not enough patience, but it’s a journey and I guess I need to get better at letting the hard moments pass and be better at holding onto the good moments a little tighter and a litter longer.

Love from Haiti.