Early in the morning we sat in a circle, our hands holding steaming-hot thick black coffee. Beth only makes it one way. The strong way. We groggily welcomed the morning, chatting together as the sun rose after a long night of labor-watch.
It is a beautiful part of the day, even exhausted. I love the sounds of people beginning again and the moment that light breaks and a new day begins.
We waited for our coffee to cool as Beth scrolled through updates on her computer. She read a headline aloud about the benefits of cold showers, "Well that's not worth reading" , she said. We bantered back and forth about how little cold water bothers us, we need no convincing of its benefits.
Beth said, "I think the America luxury I most miss is a dishwasher." She hosts giant meals frequently, and the piles of dishes are quite a chore. We went on explain that many (most?) Americans put their dishes into a machine, and voila!, they come out an hour later clean and dry. That sounds sort of silly when you describe it for a Haitian friend.
Wini said, "Well, it's okay. I don't mind because I really like doing dishes." Wini provides for a lot of people and carries great responsibility. Doing dishes is quiet reflection time for her.
Beth said, "I like laundry, that is my favorite household chore." We sipped our coffee as we thought about our various love and loathing of household chores.
Wini was quiet for a moment, then coyly said, "You love laundry because you have a machine."
We laughed. Sure enough, the chore we enjoy is made much easier because it comes with a machine to do the work for us.
Moments like that are good for me. It is important for me to be reminded that my reality is not the reality of my friends and neighbors, even if I do live in the same country.
Of course I know these things. I know them and I unknow them over and over again.
I was reminded last Friday when the thirteen year old house-servant living right around the corner from the Maternity Center came to announce she is afraid she will lose her shelter, her "home", because of the baby growing inside her. She needs to tell her aunt, whom she works for; her mother is dead and cannot be told.
Together, Haitians and Americans, we tried to encourage, pray, help a young girl feel and experience our concern and love.
I cherish my friendships with my co-laborers and the chance to be schooled by them. They teach me and guide me and bridge gaps between cultures. Bluntly stated, they help me not be dumb. I care deeply for these Haitian sisters and my life is rich due to their influence.
I love the gift I've been given working in the field of women's health and midwifery in Haiti. There is no place on earth I'd rather be learning and serving women.
I am cognizant of the gift it is to meet a woman at a critical intersection of her life, to walk with her through uncertainty, fear, doubt, and pain. The joy and trepidation, hopes and fears born anew with each baby are a constant reminder of how complicated life is and how connected we are. Rich and poor, all women with hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children.