“Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything… we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to realize it as such.”
– Henry Miller
After five and a half months in Haiti, I returned home to the states for the first time so that I could spend the holidays with my family. I was sad to leave and miss the NPH festivities with the children, but I missed my family and friends intensely and I needed a break.
I wondered if I would experience reverse culture shock going back to the states—would it be strange to return to a place where things seem so much easier? Would I feel lost and out of place, or outraged at the excess, or angry at what sometimes seems like First World oblivion to the suffering on the rest of the earth…. But I felt none of those things. I felt like I had never left.
One thing I was surprised to feel when I first arrived in Haiti was a lifting of my guilt—I had always felt badly for having so much when others have so little, and for not working more, or harder, or constantly…but being here made it suddenly clear how none of that was my fault. None of us choose where we are born, or why, or how…what we get to choose is what we do with it.
As much as I love Haiti, it was hard to leave my family again and know that I might not see them for another six months. Living in Haiti is hard. The villa was entirely full of visitors when I got back (including five in my own house), and the day after I returned was the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, so it was long and emotional. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and felt like I was walking around in a fog. For some reason, I was also dreading going back to work—I was homesick and anxious, and I wondered if my coworkers would be upset that I had stayed away for longer than I had planned or if I had forgotten all my Creole. I woke up with a sense of sadness and trepidation, and I dragged myself to breakfast and then to the hospital, my apprehension increasing with each passing minute. I forced myself to climb the stairs and round the corner to the NICU, and I slowly turned the knob and slipped inside the unit, quietly shutting the door behind me. Suddenly, the air was filled with shrieks.
“Catherine! Catherine!” My coworkers, jumping up and down, ran to hug me. And to kiss my cheeks. And to ask about my holidays. And to tell me they were worried I wasn’t coming back. At that moment, for the first time since I had been back, I felt my sadness lift and be replaced by a sense of peace and happiness. This was why I came to Haiti. Throughout the struggles and the sorrow, the worries and self-doubt, there is so much beauty and redemption to be found here. I have been privileged to be welcomed here and my only hope is that I can leave having given even a fraction of what I have already received.
by Katie Lawler on January 29, 2015
Be sure to check out Katie’s personal blog @http://katiemarielawler.blogspot.com/ for more regular updates on her life and work at the Saint Damien’s Pediatric Hospital in Tabarre, Haiti.