Life is messy. It always has been and it always will be. You aren't given a set of instructions to tell you how to live your life. You have to figure that out on your own. You either wake up every morning and despise the life you have been given or you wake up and smile and be thankful for the challenges you are going to face that day. Because although it is going to be a bumpy ride, at least you are alive.
These past few days I have felt this wave of sadness overcome me as I watch people I love, and even complete strangers undergo a great deal of suffering. But the worst part is... I feel helpless. I keep asking myself what can I do? How can I save them? I was awake all night last night staring out my window at the tent city across the street being hit horribly by hurricane Sandy. I wanted to run out there and to bring them all into our home. I couldn't imagine how cold they were as I sat on my bed freezing in my sweater and pants. I wanted to bring them blankets, towels, clothes, and tarps but I knew that I did not have enough to go around and that it would cause problems if I walked in and only handed them to a select few. I sat up all night crying. It was the worst feeling.
But then the most remarkable thing happened, in the morning as I was preparing my bucket shower, I heard voices. At first I thought it was people fighting in the streets but when I looked outside across the road, I saw the people who had just embraced a hurricane that ravished their homes and washed away some of their belongings, dancing and singing together. I can't even begin to explain the feeling that overcame me at this time. I couldn't help but smile. How can it be that people who have endured so much heartache and so much loss still come out of it laughing and singing. It blew my mind. Once again the Haitian people have proven their resilience. This is what the people back home need to see, it is moments like these that forever touch our hearts and inspire us to keep pushing on.
I have recently returned home from a visit to Canada. As I was getting on the plane and heading to Florida I couldn't hide my excitement as I was going to see my family the next day (who had no idea that I was coming home). However, this excitement didn't last long as I stepped off of the airplane and into the Fort Lauderdale airport. I felt stunned. I felt out of place. I remember just standing still and watching everyone pass me by. Everything became a blur. I so badly wanted to turn around and run back onto the plane and instruct the pilot to bring me back to Haiti. I can honestly say that this was my first "real" experience of culture shock. After living in Haiti for six months without electricity, running water, proper buildings, comfy seats, plumping, restaurants filled with people, bathrooms with more than one stall and toilet paper, etc, etc, etc. The only thing I could think about was how many people this airport could shelter. How it could better so many peoples living conditions in Haiti. I sat down in the restaurant and kept staring ahead. Finally my focus was interrupted by a man who was arguing with the waitress because he had ordered mild chicken wings, not spicy. He demanded her to take them back and to make him a fresh batch. It took everything in my damn body to not slap that man upside the head. This is when I realized that I could never come back to live in Canada. If I did, I think I would attain too many assault charges.
When I first arrived, I tried my hardest to shut out Canada, this way I would be able to shut out the reality of the greed and selfishness that existed. But that was impossible as I realized that by doing that I was stereotyping everyone into the same category in the country. I began to realize how generous people in my city have been. There have been so many folks that have reached out and helped the children and I when we have desperately needed it. I continued to experience culture shock up until my third last day in the country. Although for most of the trip I remained confused and in shock, I did have the most amazing time with my best friends, my family, and even those who I had never met before but insisted on taking me out for lunch & dinners just from hearing about my work in Haiti. I was moved by the love and bonds that have still remained even though we have been separated by border lines and seas, and by the new relationships that I had created during my short visit. The memories that were made on this trip home will be ones that forever stay with me- carving pumpkins with my little brothers, seeing my mom's face as I walked into the charity dinner, meeting Justin and Julia for the first time and laughing our butts off during the video interview, going to reapers realm with my girlfriends and being scared sh**less, sitting in the movie theaters with an old teacher and her daughter and hearing myself laugh hard for the first time in a long time, and hugging my dad and realizing how much I miss his hugs and how no man could ever even come close to measuring up to him. I realized just how much I need my family and my friends, as they will be the ones who will continue to keep me sane during my current and future struggles.
During my visit home I was asked many times "Are you sure it's still worth it Em, remember, there not actually your children?". This question has been haunting me ever since the day it was asked. Parents, what do you do when your family faces hard times? Do you abandon them during the struggles? Do you give up on them and walk away? No. You fight like hell. You do whatever it takes to protect them, to ease their pain. Although these children may not be mine biologically, we have developed a bond stronger than any DNA strand. We are a family. We have developed a connection based on love, trust, forgiveness, and second chances. What would it say about my character if I were to up and walk away from them? I came here to show love and passion for children who have only ever known abandonment and loss. I came here to show them that they are worth sticking around for, and that someone does love them enough to stick around through any bull that is thrown their way. We will battle these wars together, as one. We may have different skin colour, different texture of hair, we may speak different languages, but we have more in common than we do different. Is it worth it you ask? Damn right it is. These kids are worth everything I have and more. They are my babies.
As I lay here tonight listening to the rain fall down with one of my little guys passed out on my lap, I cannot help but think of those without proper shelter suffering tonight, and I cannot help but to miss my own family terribly, yet I still feel this sense of knowing that I am exactly where I need to be. The most difficult thing in life, the hardest thing to comprehend, is having your heart in two places at once.