Reflecting on Excess this Holiday Season – From a Long Term Volunteer in Haiti

In this season of joy and thanksgiving, I just want to say how grateful I am for both my time in Haiti, and for the work that Carlo and Erin do at HaitiHub to make all of our journeys in Haiti smoother.

It’s not hyperbole to say that I think about Haiti every single day; it’s become a part of me.  Some of my time in Haiti was joyful and some was excruciating, but overall, it was an experience that I would choose again and again–one that taught me an immeasurable amount about life in general and myself in particular, and one that (I hope) made me a better person for it.  I still wonder sometimes if I really even did anything that mattered when I was in Haiti…but I hope that my time there planted seeds for something to come in the future that I can’t yet imagine.  In the meantime, I continue to volunteer for NPH here in the states (although many times that I do, I think about how volunteering here–when I get to drive myself to organized meetings in a nice office building with a coffee shop across the hall–is such a far cry from volunteering in Haiti that it hardly seems comparable!)

In a wealthy country, this time of year always seems like a tug-of-war to me; the true spirit of Christmas, in all its simplicity, is often overshadowed by the rampant commercialism and hectic frenzy of holiday preparations.  We’re so busy and we have so much excess of everything.  Recently I’ve been studying mindfulness and meditation and the other day it occurred to me that with all the ways we have to occupy our time and the many things we can use to distract and/or numb ourselves, most of the time it’s easy to avoid really feeling anything at all….  That is one thing, for better or for worse, which I could never say in Haiti.  There was nowhere to go and nothing with which to escape, so I felt almost everything acutely.  Sometimes this was painful, but for the most part, I think it was an incredible and humbling opportunity to see humanity intimately, in all its messy and heartbreaking glory.  To really and truly FEEL something.

For that reason, this is my wish for all of my friends in Haiti and around the world:  health, happiness, and the ability to pause and truly feel it all this holiday season.

Written by Katie Lawler on December 16, 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. 

Editor’s note: We just wanted to thank Katie for such a kind shout out – but really, we’re grateful to have the opportunity to work with every single one of you.  Your drive to connect is what really makes a difference, it’s a privilege to be a part of it!

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