Our little group glues itself together when we leave the airport terminal. We jostle through a sea of unfamiliar voices and dark-skinned faces.
I stare at the necklace that dangles in front of me, shake my head and smile. “No. No, thank you. No money.”
A haze hangs over the hill, and I realize I’m holding my breath. To exhale means I need to inhale the smell of smoke, to suck in the dust of the city.
Our ministry bus jerks and bumps through the streets of Port Au Prince. Through the sounds of blaring horns. Past crowds and concrete. Past razor wire fences. Past women bearing burdens on their heads. Around pickups, their beds piled with people. We weave around motorcycles, and motorcycles weave around us.
I hold my breath during the wild ride.
That night I sit on rubber mats and stroke the arms and backs of children whose bodies are twisted in their disabilities–because I don’t know what else to do but touch. Outside again, I cradle a little boy who falls asleep in my arms. I listen to the wet rattle in his chest as he breathes. His caregivers take him from me, give him medicine to drink.
I gaze at the city lights that dot the hill, look up at the crescent moon that hangs like a smile, and I want to go home.
I catch my breath and fight the tears.
But I can’t go home yet.
Tomorrow we’ll fly in a small plane to Jeremie. We’ll spend a week loving on orphans there.
The children charge the van as we make the final turn. They run alongside and bang on its sides. They swirl around the door, and I watch for fingers on the steps as I exit. I wonder if this is how the children greeted Jesus.
They grab at me, pull at me, push other kids away. They jump to be picked up. My shirt stretches off my shoulder.
The smell of sweat and poverty overwhelm me, and I wonder how I’ll survive the week.
But when it’s time to leave, I don’t want to go home.
I fight the tears.
I inhale deep, and I don’t want to exhale.
I want to keep Haiti in my heart.
I want to suck it in deep.
Memories of my first trip to Haiti, inspired by “Bed on Bricks.”
Claire Burge asks, “What’s unfamiliar to you that you love dearly?”
In the stillness,
Joining LisaJo and the Five Minute Friday Community
on the prompt