Reflections: Returning Home After Haiti

“What is demanded of man is not…to endure the meaningless of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.”

– Viktor E. Frankl

I left Haiti abruptly last month for personal reasons; although everything is fine, thankfully, after having a need to step away, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to gain some perspective again. Haiti, for me, has been the highest of highs and the lowest of lows…somewhere that I’ve found truth and beauty that I haven’t known in years, but also somewhere where—my idealism and eternal hope notwithstanding—the realities of a life and culture I am only beginning to understand sometimes brought me to my knees….

Every time one of my friends from work or the villa sends me a message asking how I am and when I’m coming back and saying that they miss me, my heart breaks a little bit…I love living in Haiti for so many reasons, and every day I have moments where I want to go back. I miss the many wonderful friends I made there from all over the world. I miss mass at St. Philomena in the morning, with the sun slowly climbing the chapel wall and Father Rick’s gorgeous baritone reverberating throughout the space. I miss my nurses in the NICU, and their affection; I know for a lot of Americans who are used to boundaries and personal space, the hand-holding, hugging, and kissing that’s the norm in Haiti is, as best, surprising, and at worst, cringe-worthy, but I adored it…. I miss the sweet kids at FWAL and the crazy hairdos they gave me. I miss saying something and realizing that I’ve just inadvertently mixed four (Kreyol, French, English, Italian) languages. I miss the excitement, and the passion, and the inspiration that I felt when I first got to Haiti. I miss the mangos.

That being said, I am not sad to have left Haiti because I know it’s not a goodbye, just a, “See you later,”…. Haiti is a part of my heart, and the things that I saw and felt and experienced there could fill a lifetime, one that I wish everybody could have the privilege to experience. It’s hard to articulate in writing without using platitudes, and I know whatever I say will be inadequate to describe this incredible place. My only hope is that the time that I spent there, and what I’ve been able to share about it, has shined a little light on this small part of the earth and the work that’s being done there, and maybe lit a small flame of compassion in the hearts of some others.

To hear some of the beautiful music that we often sang at mass, please visit: https://stlukehaiti.bandcamp.com/ or choose a song in the player below.

by Katie Lawler on April 23, 2015

Be sure to check out Katie’s personal blog @ http://katiemarielawler.blogspot.com/ for more stories from her life and work at the Saint Damien’s Pediatric Hospital in Tabarre, Haiti.

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