One of the greatest things about being here is our ability to work together as a couple/family. I have always loved that aspect and it is still a wonderful benefit in my mind. I love being removed from the pressures of "suburban America".
We are granted so much time together - we did not used to have much time to connect. Life is simpler and I cannot imagine going back to the run, run, run of sports and lessons and activities and social events and more sports.
While Haiti can be (and often is) difficult and draining, we are thankful and feel blessed to be given an opportunity to live in a place that allows for our family to be "tight" and yet simultaneously stretches us as individuals and as a family.
(To those helping us be here: THANK YOU! We need you to do this!)
People often ask us, "What is the hardest part about living there?"
Our answer has varied during the time we've been here. In the beginning the stresses were much different than they are today.
I recently found an online job description for a position in Haiti, it listed these challenges:
1. One of the biggest challenges is learning to cope with limited infrastructure (electricity, phone systems, roads, etc.) and working with a struggling government system.
2. Also challenging is the overwhelming need and the frequent requests for help that one receives. A person filling this assignment will need to be able to handle this type of stress and be able to develop coping mechanisms in order to appropriately respond to these situations.
Right now we are feeling the heat of #2. It has become difficult to even keep up with the requests for help that come our way. But more difficult than that is trying to decide what the right thing to do is.
We don't want to be the people who won't even listen and just out and out slam the door and say "NO!" We also don't want to be the people that say "yes" to everything and end up not being able to pay our bills. It is a incredibly difficult situation and one we've not yet figured out. It can be uncomfortable saying "yes" and it can be terribly uncomfortable saying "no".
Just this week alone we've had these requests for help (us personally, not the ministries we represent).
1. Isaac's birth father needs surgery. We agreed to cover it. We went to pay for it and he then asked if we would cover them for the one month of recovery time ... so feeding a family of 8 for a month. We said no to that, but who knows if we made the right choice. We've covered many of their needs in the past yet we don't want to become their sole support. We can't become that.
2. Our neighborhood has a gate at the entrance (a gated community as it were). The guy who stands at the gate came to our house to ask for a loan for his daughter who is six and is in the hospital.
3. Tipap starts school on Monday. While he makes a much better wage with us than he did in the past, it is still not enough to cover his school and transportation. We're trying to determine what is right.
4. Every weekday we travel Delmas. Every day no less than eight children tap on the windows asking for money. Is it wrong to give them something? Is it right? Is there any clear-cut answer? Do you vary your response? Do you not look them in the eye?
I do not know that we have developed very good coping mechanisms for this stress. We are at a loss and we constantly second guess ourselves ... in BOTH responses.
The added difficulty is the fact that when we truly do not have the money to give, the person asking does not believe that. Some months we spend beyond our budget (as we have all done at times) and if we were to say, "I am sorry, we don't have X amount of dollars to give you right now" - that would not be received as truth ... perception is reality and the perception is, we have unending wealth relative to the people here.
I think our single greatst prayer request is for wisdom. We never want to hurt someone. We want to make good choices. We want to show compassion without being idiots.
*That* is easier said than done.