Like many in Haiti, Martin cares for his family one job at a time. We hired him to be our guide for the 10 days we were spending in Haiti.
He showed us around the area, introducing us to friends and passersby, stepped in if communication got rocky, and generally saw to our safety and well being for the duration of our stay.
He was a patient (impromptu) tutor, quiet and soft-spoken but easy to talk to. He had an impeccable talent for garnering meaning from our jumbled cocktail of Kreyòl-Angle and he quickly became a bit of a celebrity among our students. Somewhere, someone was most certainly asking “Kote Martin??”
The day we went into the community market, Martin returned to the group with 3 coconuts and a handful of other treats and began passing them around. The excitement of our students overwhelmed the market place (How many blans does it take to open a coconut? Answer: 0, we were quickly relieved of them and a man with a machete cracked them open for us.)
Martin had spent his own money buying us treats.
During our class that night we spent a long time discussing what it meant to receive gifts from our friends in the community. While we were there they served us their best food, put us up in the best lodging and, as Martin had demonstrated, acted with overwhelming generosity.
Was it right to accept these things from a community where we’d seen others struggling to meet their everyday needs?
I’ve come to a few conclusions (that don’t necessarily generate a conclusive answer):
1. There is so much not right in Haiti, we hear a lot about it, everywhere, always. Many times, that is all that outsiders know of the country.
2. There is so much GOOD in Haiti, there is good in the people there, and there is good in the natural beauty of the place and in the relationships we build.
3. By offering us their best, our friends and hosts are sharing with us what they love most about their country. Hopefully we leave with a little bit better understanding of the things that make Haiti beautiful.
4. Refusing to accept a gift is (inadvertently) casting judgment upon their situation. They know what they can afford to give, and they do it with joy.
5. Refusing to accept a gift jeopardizes the friendship because it shakes the foundations of that fundamental equality I talked about in The Santa Claus Complex (If all the giving is one sided, you unintentionally create a hierarchy)
6. I hope throughout life, wherever I go, I am able to embody the generosity that I’ve seen in Haiti.
by Erin Nguyen on September 25, 2014