by Kayla Raymond
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2
America, the beautiful. Oh, how I love thee.
I forget how beautiful you really are. How awesome the weather is this time of year. How green the fields are and how they seem to go on forever. How the sun doesn’t set until after 9:00 p.m. and how the fireflies dance in the night. How wonderful it is to hear the firewood crackle and birds sing again.
It’s a strange thing coming back to the place where I once belonged. Hugs feel warmer and laughing just comes easier. I go months without seeing the people I call my best friends, but we can pull up to a table and talk like time never even separated us. I consider it a pretty incredible thing.
It had been over 9 months since I had last seen my grandma. She ran to greet me at her front door when I got to her house. There’s just something in the deepest parts of my being that rings I’m home in those moments.
There is retail therapy here, bottomless chips and salsa, smooth roads where cruise control can be used, pedicures with chairs that massage your back, and strawberries. Endless amounts of strawberries: strawberry pie, frozen yogurt with strawberries, strawberry salad, fresh strawberries picked by grandpa Jo and plain strawberries eaten at every snack (fun fact: strawberries cost close to $14 in Haiti, so we never get to eat them)
It’s real easy to be American. It’s fun to buy new things, enjoy good food and to stay up late.
But, it’s hard.
It actually keeps getting harder. Every single time.
I thought after three years I would be able to transition back and forth just fine. But, truth is, my heart, my purpose and my loves are all in Haiti. So much of me is empty without them and without being there.
This is not to say, however, that I don’t soak up every minute of being here. It’s not to say that when family comes over or friends sit across from me that I’m not enjoying every second of it. Because, I am. I’m refreshed by people that I care deeply about. People that I miss and cherish most every day. I hate missing out on their lives and I hate how much they miss out on mine some days, too. My kids are growing up and they’re amazing and funny and bright and all I want to do is tell stories about them, because I want people to know who and what they are missing out on.
We are all missing out on something or another because life has led me away from America. And knowing I won’t always be able to attend family get-together’s or have family and friends celebrate our get-together’s in Haiti, only makes the permanency of the situation harder.
I went on a walk the other day. Circled around the grounds of the elementary, middle school and high school where I grew up. Lots of things are changing because a casino was built in our county a few years ago and the casino has now started giving money to the schools in the county. It’s awesome to see. A new office for the elementary and high school, a new weight room and wrestling room and I hear that every student has a laptop these days.
But, I cringe on the inside. (disclaimer: I have nothing against casinos; I know a lot of people have their opinions, but I am really opinion-less on the topic) I think of how many people probably went into the casino for a fun night out with their spouse or a girls night out with friends. They spent $20 on slots and maybe another $20 on drinks. Heck! Last weekend I was at a casino for my roommate from college bachelorette party. I spent $2 on a horse race (won’t $6.60, by the way!) and at least $20 more on beer and food. I’ve never seen horse races before and it was a beautiful evening and I loved it. A live band played afterwards and my friends and I danced the night away. What’s not to love?
But, I think of where all the money came from to make all the additions to my old high school.
I think of how it only takes $35/month to sponsor a child in Haiti and the unfairness in that thought.
I think of how all of my students in Haiti can walk over a mile to school on dirt paths in their brightly colored uniforms to receive an education that may be their only chance out of poverty. How filled I get every morning when I see these dirt paths filled with students making their hike to school. How they walk with worn out shoes and ripped back packs and crumpled books.
How a building made of cement blocks with a tin roof and nothing but wooden benches and a chalkboard can change and save a young child’s life.
I cringe on the inside, my heart breaks by the realities of this world. The night and day differences of here and there are so vastly different, it makes me angry (just a little) but also makes me want to crawl in the fetal position and cry.
Because, what if? What if we stopped gambling our money away and invested it into the Kingdom? What if our retail therapy turned into an education for a child in poverty? What if our overcrowded closets and piles of shoes became new walking shoes for children who walk so far to school?
Just, what if?
What if excuses and selfishness and indulgence and materialism and compulsive buying became the answers to prayers. To filled bellies. To new back packs or #2 pencils or child sponsorships.
The hardest part is this: here I am, enjoying all America has to offer me for a two week thrill, only to feel like a hypocrite, because I know of all the hungry, homeless, abandoned, and needy people back home. I know their faces and I can call them by name. I am humbly ruined by the realities of my American passport and United States citizenship. How did I deserve to be born here?
Where typing is taught at an elementary age and organized sports lead to university scholarships and unlimited opportunities are always knocking.
Where it’s the law to go to school and education is not a luxury but a given. (another disclaimer: I know there are many schools in America that struggle and many students in America who didn’t have the educational opportunities I did, but my point is that in America, education is accessible and for the most part free. In Haiti and in so many other parts of the developing world, people are never given these opportunities of education.)
Why do I get to enjoy so much of life while so many, many people are struggling to get by…
Why are we, as Americans, so numb to the realities of the rest of the world?
I love you America, but you make me so numb. You make me so conformed. You have a way of seducing me with your pretty advertisements and delicious food. You make me so comfortable.
And, to be honest, I hate it. And for this reason, I’m declaring our relationship “as complicated” and hoping you will be able to come around and start getting your priorities in line and stop making excuses to help the poor, because I just can’t go another day without giving my life to the poor.
Until next time, America.