Sunday, March 18, 2012

hold fast

The new year began for us in the Dominican Republic in a fairy tale setting at a gorgeous house twenty paces from the Caribbean Sea.  Everything about those ten days was picturesque and relaxing.  We were intentional about leaving Haiti and going to re-group and reflect and relax. 

We were more than privileged and ridiculously lucky to have been able to "take a break".  In no way, shape, or form are we entitled to such favor. It isn't something we take for granted. We're ever aware that for the women we work with in Port au Prince, there is no "break" from real life. They don't jump in the car or on a plane and arrive in a relaxing place in a matter of hours. They don't get to choose to ignore poverty for a few days. They don't rest or reflect, those are concepts only a very select population can entertain. The vast majority hold fast, press on. 

One morning in the D.R. we sat around the table discussing what we hoped to accomplish in 2012. We all had at least a vague idea of one or two small goals for 2012 and expressed our hopefulness and motivation. One small goal of mine was to run more and try to get back to higher miles. 

In 2011 I missed the predictability, stability, and satisfaction that disciplined and purposeful distance running gave me. No other time in my day am I removed from telephones and computers and knocking gates and needy children. No other time allows such freedom to spend time alone talking to God. Knowing that stability is not only good for me, it is good for my family - I declared that 2012 would be a better running year, and for the most part, it has been.

Yesterday for the first time in many weeks I forced myself out of the shelter of our little neighborhood.  The majority  of the 2012 miles have been on a treadmill in my bedroom or in the safe and secure .57 mile loop around the area we live. I was making time for running, but I was hiding from the real world. I wasn't hiding in a Dominican Republic paradise for ten days, but I was hiding just the same.  I was avoiding Port au Prince and the hard realities that running in the city force upon me. 

I purposefully had Troy drop me off in the middle of the chaos hoping that once I was standing there with no easy way home I'd be forced to run in reality again. Forced to see again.

I ran. 
I saw.

I remembered why it is easier to hide from it - easier to look away ... Easier to run in place in my bedroom staring at the wall. It is easier; I'm not sure it is better.

While running in the city, weaving in and out, there is no way not to see what life is like on the streets. Life is hard. Life is unfair. For some life is desperately cruel. Of course I know that from interactions with women in the programs, but sometimes I know it without forcing myself to really know it, to look hard at it, to truly see the suffering - to  risk feeling it.

Even though I can see it, I can't identify with the suffering of my neighbors. I occasionally enter into their stories - but to say that I can truly identify is a total fallacy. My passport, my annual vacation, my ability to hide from it, means I don't fully understand their lives. 

I can look away. 
They cannot. 
I can take a break. 
They cannot. 

As I ran through congested and filthy streets I watched people going about their day, going about their lives. Running in their real world, I remembered what it is that most inspires me about the Haitian people. I was reminded again that they are a people that press on, hold on, keep on  - in the face of great injustice, failing governments, ineffective and non-existent infrastructure, natural disasters, misuse of funds, disease ...  

I listened over and over to a song I love by Josh Garrels while I ran and watched the people around me: ' Hold fast like an anchor in the storm ~ Hold fast my people and sing, through peace and through suffering. Hold fast - we will not be moved.' 

There are so many things the Haitian people teach me by the way they live their lives. 
This is just one of them.