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As I sat down and got quiet thinking about all the things that happened this week, including missing the premiere of Southern Charm (don’t judge), I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful for all of my many blessings – family, friends, a beautiful home, a job I love, and comforts that many can only dream of. It’s so easy to forget how incredibly blessed we are to not only be alive and kicking but also thriving. It got me thinking back to one of the most transformative experiences in my life that dug me out of a pretty rough period and opened my eyes to the beauty in the darkness – Haiti.
My parents had divorced a couple of years before I went to Haiti, which was a very difficult for me. Navigating the post-divorce family life had thrown me for a loop (around a tree, under a bridge, through the woods, over the mountain, and back again). My parents were like adoptive parents to some of my friends. My family was always close but obviously, not anymore. It was devastating to me and the life I thought I had. I was always used to being in control of myself and my feelings, and I was admittedly a mess.
On the outside, I still had it mostly together. But on the inside, I was incredibly unsettled. I read every book I could on being an adult child of divorce, which wasn’t many. I tried meditation thanks to the collaboration between Oprah and Deepak Chopra, thinking that would give me clarity in my life. I became a short-lived “Holy Roller.” I tried tap dancing, therapy, & Tito’s vodka. I didn’t realize at the time that I was searching for a return to the stability I always thought I had in my life that I would never have in that same way again.
A good friend of mine had been to Haiti a couple of times and encouraged me to join the group from Catch the Vision that was going in November of 2013. I had never gone on a trip like that before and was more than apprehensive. I really had no idea what to expect, and I was honestly more concerned about bugs and peeing outside than anything else. I loved helping people, but I wasn’t really sure if I was the appropriate person to go and be the “Light of Christ” in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I most definitely was unqualified. But I went to the info session and decided that I would go. Obviously, I went because I wanted to “help,” but I had no concept of what that actually meant.
The night before I left, I think I finally understood what anxiety truly is. The entire night, I was on the verge of tears thinking about what I had gotten myself into. I had no skills to bring to Haiti. I wasn’t a nurse or doctor. I usually avoid manual labor at all costs so the thought of being able to help with the construction project made me feel completely overwhelmed. I’m not someone who easily shares my faith, and this was a mission trip. Sometimes, children get on my nerves. I had zero business going to Haiti. On top of that, I hadn’t practiced peeing outside which had been a ridiculous but real source of anxiety. The last thing I wrote in my journal before I left for the airport was, “I thought I’d feel more prepared than this.”
Before our plane even landed, I could tell Haiti was different. As the plane reached the runway, there was rubble on both sides of the single runway from the massive earthquake more than three years prior and almost no trees anywhere. As I walked to the front of the plane, the heat and humidity were oppressive, and I’m from South Carolina. When we went to claim our luggage, everyone found their suitcase. Except me. All I could think was, “What am I going to do? There’s no Lane Bryant here.” Just as the real possibility of being stuck in Haiti with no clothes or supplies for an entire week began to wash over me, an oversized black suitcase with an ‘Upgrade Me’ tag appeared. At least I would have clean clothes and my toothbrush and iodine tablets for water.
As we left the airport, there were hundreds of people talking and yelling and trying to grab the bags so we would have to pay them for helping. It was a mad house. When we finally got to the parking lot where 15 of us would cram into 3 Nissan Patrols, it finally began to hit me. I had traveled pretty extensively prior to going to Haiti. All over the U.S. Europe. Asia. But there was nothing I had experienced that could prepare me for the sights and heartache and beauty I would see in Haiti or the change in my heart.