Ever wonder if people in impoverished countries feel the same hurts and emotions that we do? I see the anguish on TV of those suffering in other countries but then I sometimes brush it off as: “Well, they deal with that all the time so they know what to expect.” Very callous of me, isn’t it!
Visiting other countries gives me that personal contact that lets me see that the same blood flows through their veins and their hearts break just as much as mine and no matter how often life treats them badly, the feelings and emotions are the same as mine. I may not understand their language and customs enough to realize how deeply they feel in their hearts but personal witness breaks down the barriers.
One of my favorite moments of learning to see with new eyes occurred during my last trip to Haiti. Exciting things were happening in back of Grandpa’s house and everyone wanted to watch as the bulls pulled the plow through the ground in preparation for a new vegetable garden. We all watched the progress with excitement.
Off to the side sat Grandpa with baby Jefferson. His tender work worn hands rested lightly upon the grandchild entrusted in his care. It was a casual touch but reassuring to the child that he was safe and warned at the same time to not move closer to the action. The emotion prompted me to lift my camera.
Later, I shared my picture with my brother-in-law, Dick. Dick is a painter and the emotion portrayed by grandpa’s hands also caught his eye and he began to sketch. Oil paints were arranged on his pallet and he began to, and continued to, apply the paint to the canvas even after my visit ended and I headed back to the Mid-West.
Several weeks later, I received the painting in the mail. Grandpa’s Hands! In looking at the painting, all the memories I experienced in that moment rushed back. The sound of the plow churning through the field, the soft lilting voices lifted in laughter and conversation all around me. Hopeful looks towards the new vegetable garden for the coming season. And the kind, caring hands of a man so much like you and me.
The people of Haiti live and love as we do, with open hearts and courage in the face of huge challenges, and while our customs differ, our hearts all care the same, our hopes for better futures remain fixed firmly on our children. No, in the end we aren’t all that different and that knowledge makes me cherish the love and laughter of our lives even more.