Last time I went to Haiti I poured over the packing list making sure I had everything I needed or was recommended for travel. After being there I realize anything I bring with me is way too much. It's all very ridiculous to show up in a country so unbelievably poor with a $58 self purifying water bottle.
Last time, I was worried about whether or not I would have enough gluten free food to exist on for an entire week. That thought alone makes me feel the most ashamed. Walking up and down grocery store aisles, making trips to Trader Joe's and Sendik's to make the best (read: most delicious) choices. I would need three meals per day, I had figured, plus snacks, and of course food during the flights since they never have anything gluten free unless you specifically request ahead of time --- and then I stayed in an orphanage with one hundred children who were so thankful to eat just two times a day. They were the lucky ones. They had rice and beans every single day. Most kids in the village can't even depend on a single daily meal.
This trip there is only one thing I need. And that is the Bible I will give to Riquelme, along with a soccer shirt (because he likes soccer).
His very own Bible. I pray he keeps it for a lifetime. That he carries it with him. That, even if the English words don't register in his 14-year old mind, that somehow they register in his heart.
I want him to know and understand and believe that there is a purpose for him. That God dreamed him up and declared, "my world needs Riquelme. My world needs this boy to be born in Haiti and to walk a hard and burden filled path but to also trust that I will never take my eyes off of him. I will never let him walk a single step alone. And I will bless his life with goodness and plenty - even if it doesn't make sense to anyone else. Yes, my world needs this precious boy!"
I picked out the perfect Bible and then walked to the travel section thinking I would pick up a English to Haitian Creole dictionary. I thought it would make conversing with him a tad bit easier. That he would see how hard I was trying. There were four shelves of foreign language dictionaries. Four long, dark shining shelves... and only one book that included Haitian Creole. One.
It showed how to say things like, "I need the security police" and "Do not give your baby away for help" and "if a man is pressuring you for services in exchange for food you must report him to the police."
I put the book back.
I decided, instead, to walk over to the travel guides. There were three times the shelves to pick from! The closest I could get was a travel guide to the Dominican Republic warning about traveling to the adjacent country of Haiti.
I went to wait in line at the check out.
Lord, you showed me this boy and now my heart hurts. Show me what I can do for him.
In front of me, in line, was a small girl who told me she was going to be in 1st grade. Her dark, tight curls bounced freely around her beautiful face. She smiled. Her front teeth missing.
"Have you read Skippy Jon Jones?" she asked me.
"Actually, yes, I have." I replied. Precocious little thing. "I just read the one where he pretends he's a Chihuahua to my son. I forget the title."
"I know that one!" she beamed. Then turned to her mother, speaking something in their native language. The mother shied, looked down at the ground before looking up at me. "She like read very much," the mom explained in halting English.
I smiled before answering, "That's good! She is very smart." What I didn't say out loud was, "I had a daughter who loved to read, too. I treasured that about her."
When it was finally my turn, the cashier motioned to a book on display nearby. "This is my employee pick!" She seemed proud so I let her go on, smiling what I'm sure would have been described as a tired smile. Sometimes it just takes so much energy to appear normal.
"It really is quite the page turner!" she continued. "It's about a man who loses his young daughter tragically and just can't get over her death. He's about to kill himself - because he's so filled with grief - but then a mysterious man contacts him and says he can bring his dead daughter back to life if that's what the father wants. I won't tell you anymore - but I will tell you it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat!"
I wondered how many times I have inadvertently said something inappropriate or ill timed to people I barely knew, or worse, to those I should have known quite well. How many times I may have said something that stops them in their tracks, causing them to pause to figure out the proper way to respond.
I can't very well hang a sign around my neck that reads PLEASE DO NOT SPEAK ABOUT DEATH OR TRAGEDY, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. Because then I'd have to keep adding on to it whenever something unpleasant or untoward was spoken: ALSO PLEASE DO NOT SPEAK ABOUT CAR ACCIDENTS AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES POST OR SHARE PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK THAT INVOLVE HORRIBE CAR CRASHES OR WHAT APPEARS TO BE BLOODY ACCIDENT SCENES.
AND ALSO PLEASE DO NOT SAY THINGS LIKE 'I LOST MY DOG IN THE 4TH GRADE, I TOTALLY KNOW HOW YOU FEEL.' BECAUSE I ASSURE YOU, YOU DON'T.
AND IT WOULD ALSO BE GREAT IF YOU WOULDN'T SAY THINGS LIKE 'UGH! I HATE IT WHEN THEY CLOSE DOWN A ROAD JUST BECAUSE OF AN ACCIDENT' BECAUSE THEN I THINK I OUGHT TO BE APOLOGIZING FOR WHEN THE ROAD WAS CLOSED WHILE THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PERSONNEL TRIED TO REMOVE TWO CHILDREN STUCK IN MY CAR AND THE FLIGHT FOR LIFE NEEDED SOME PLACE TO LAND AND NOW I FEEL GUILTY AND I ALREADY FELT GUILTY SO THIS MEANS I FEEL EVEN MORE GUILTY THAN I ALREADY DID AND ALSO DID YOU EVER THINK THAT MAYBE THEY WOULDN'T CLOSE THE ROAD IF IT WASN'T AN AWFUL ACCIDENT AND MORE THAN LIKELY SOMEBODY IS GOING TO GET A CALL THAT CHANGES THEIR LIFE FOREVER AND ALL YOU'RE DOING IS COMPLAINING BECAUSE YOU GOT RE-ROUTED SEVEN MINUTES OUT OF YOUR WAY?!
The sign would obviously become too big and cumbersome and way too heavy a burden to carry around my neck.
The cashier was smiling at me, arm frozen in a mid-Vanna White wave toward the Employee Pick of the Day. She was waiting for me to say something so I swallowed and said, "so, um, is it spiritual?"
"I'm sorry?" she seemed confused.
"Like, the dilemma of wanting his daughter back - like, how it's got to be really hard to want to selfishly want her back because he loves her, obviously, but if she's in heaven and heaven is perfect then that would be really hard to want her to come back to all this heartache and trouble and, like, a world where countries like Haiti exist, where there are so many orphans and hunger and stuff."
"Oh." She dropped her arm. "No. It's, uh, nothing like that. It's more of a thriller." She smiled proudly.
"Oh." I slid the Bible towards her. "Maybe next time."
And then I went to my car, turned my radio as loud as it could go, and sang through the tears.
Lay 'Em Down (Needtobreathe cover) by Harper Still
And you know what? I felt a whole lot better. Because when you lay your burdens down - even when it's kind of hard to put them into words - you feel a whole lot lighter.