Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Color of Heaven


I find the easiest way to learn about people is to listen to what they have to say. Everyone has something to say. It's just that sometimes, they stop talking out loud once they feel no one's listening.

When I go to Haiti {I've been three times now}, I find myself sitting quietly a lot. Just sitting. Sooner or later a kid or two will show up. Then another. And another.

Usually it's the boys.

Mostly they talk about silly things. Teasing each other about their hair and who is going to "grow it tall." Laughing about who was outwitted on the soccer field. They're all boy; hitting and nudging and pushing and bumping into each other.

But other times they grow silent. Quiet. Like they're thinking so hard about things but aren't sure how to talk about it. Like saying it out loud will somehow cause them to lose their train of thought.

And so we sit. Not saying anything at all. Side by side.

And then there are the times when they're full of questions. They want answers. They need answers. They're impatient and anxious, sometimes teetering on the edge of angry - but even they can't put into words why. It's just a feeling they have and they're trying their hardest to understand it.


"Bridget," he demands. As if my name is an order. He's looking at me hard. Eyes angry and defiant but he doesn't know why. He snaps his chin up; his way of telling me he's boss, daring me to look away.

"Your child die."

"Yes, my daughter died."  It's their favorite topic. Maybe because they all seem to know death in one form or another. They challenge me on it. Constantly.

He squints his eyes at me. "She in heaven?" 

All the boys turn to look at me now.

"Yes. She's in heaven. She believed in God and loved Jesus very much so when she died she got to go to Heaven."

He considers this. I keep my eyes on him. The boys look back and forth between us; they feel a battle approaching.

He looks away first. Off into the distance. He starts chewing on the inside of his lip. Contemplating something. 

I wonder what this beautiful child has experienced in his short life. I wonder what circumstances he lived through that brought him here, at this orphanage, in this village. 

He is so beautiful. So precious. So hard. 

He has a rock he's been fingering. Around and around I watch the rock as he flips it over and over. Suddenly, he throws it to the ground, snaps his head at me, eyes squinted in what looks like anger but is probably just confusion. 

"Bridget! When I die? I go to heaven, too? Then I turn white like you?!" 

He spits the words out. 

"What?" 

"Why I go to heaven and turn white like you?" He's mad. Angry. Scared.

It dawns on me: he has heard the stories. Stories of God and heaven. Stories about how, if you just believe, you will live eternally in heaven. How you will be made whole and perfect.

And he thinks, incorrectly, that this perfection comes in the color of white skin.  

"Oh, honey, no! You think that everyone in heaven is white?"

He nods his head yes.

"How do you know I won't go to heaven and turn dark like you?"

Some of the boys laugh. A slow smile comes to his face. But it's not enough. He wants more. I pray I can help him understand.

"Here's what I think," I start while leaning toward him. "I don't think God has a favorite color. That's why he made so many people with so many different colors. He made people with skin dark like the night because he thinks the night is beautiful. And he made people with skin light brown like the earth because he is so proud of His earth. And he made people with skin light like mine because the light makes him happy. And he made people with skin and hair as white as snow because he loves everything pure.

I think that in heaven we will see all our different skin colors and just know that each person is as beautiful and perfect as God sees us as. When we are in heaven I will have my white skin and you will have your beautiful dark skin - but we won't care. We will only be happy to see each other's hearts."

He turns again, looking out into the distance. And he sits quiet for a long, long time. 

All the boys do. 

No one moves or says anything as the sky starts shutting down for the day. 

I lean my head back and close my eyes, enjoying the last few moments of the day's sun. 

"Bridget," he speaks slow and quiet. "That heaven sounds real good."

Eyes still closed, I smile. Yes, I think to myself. Heaven sounds really good indeed. 




1 comment:

Theresa Ferrari said...

Your writing is always so beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Have you read the book "The Color of Water" by James McBride? it is one of my favorites and I think you would enjoy it.

Theresa in Denver