November 7, 2010

September 2010 - a bit late - Jacmel, Ayiti - lemons and trumpets

Today smells like lemons.

It looks like a grey-white, rock-filled road and a turquoise door,

a balcony and

a ghost slave ship sailing past the pastel cemetery.

It feels like a deep breath, a cool stream of water through my toes,

and an occasional cold stare.

It sounds like a blues song on a street corner

that ends with a smile on the lips of the trumpet player.

* * * * *

What we have to learn from Haitians, part 1:

(just a small inkling of the truth)

Courage: You try losing your family in an earthquake, reconstructing your collapsed house with a small hammer and a dollar a day to eat with, too, and still finding time to make sure your fingernails are painted before you change your clothes and go to church.

Dignity: I had a dream the other night, sleeping on a straw mat on the floor at a friend’s place, of running with a maroon, scrambling in bare feet over rough rocks, being chased, but running still with dignity. Maroons are well known in Haitian history, escaped slaves that lived in the mountains. They called each other to meetings by blowing the low moan of a conch shell, and eventually defeated Napoleon’s army to establish freedom, decades before the U.S. abolished slavery. Maroons refused to live without dignity, to be forced into anything less than what they were. To those still in chains, they were a reminder of dignity and freedom. Slaves heard the call of the conch shell and knew that freedom was not only possible, but imminent. In a hundred ways, the spirit of that refusal to lose dignity is present in life today, every day, in Haitian communities. People can tell when you are giving less respect than they are worth. They can smell the difference between charity and engagement. They refuse to accept less than we have to offer.

Community: When you are hungry, you go to your neighbor and they feed you. When you have an extra plate, you send it for them. When you have a problem, you yell and everyone in your neighborhood comes running. They may give you crap advice, but they’ll be there. They’ll be back tomorrow, too, to check on you.

To be continued, because there is more . . .

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