On Monday, dawn crept over me on a rooftop in Haiti. Just below, massive trucks lumbered over narrow rocky streets, lugging water to and from a water purification facility. Roosters crowed and dogs barked. People walked, sang, laughed, and chattered in every nook and cranny in the streets, balconies and rooftops all around. Palm fronds swayed in a gentle breeze. All seemed peaceful in the pink tropical haze of encroaching sun.
But I knew all too well that most likely somewhere not far away a child wheezed her last breath, succumbing to kwashiorkor – death from starvation. Somewhere in nearby Pele, rooftops lay empty, residents fearful of gang members shooting over compound walls during the night. Somewhere a runaway “restavek,” a child slave, scraped himself up from the ground where he slept, driven by the beast of unyielding hunger. Somewhere a mother begged a voodoo priest for a fetish in hopes of sustaining the last threads of life that tugged her child into the morning from the night clutches of tuberculosis.
All around me, the clanking, grinding, heaving city groaned awake.
The very next morning, I tip-toed through my sleeping house in Colorado and settled into my favorite chair. I listened. The only sounds: furnace-hum-and-click, my dog’s exhale, and my own steady breathing.
It is all too much. The wonders of modern travel carried my body across the ocean; but my soul still trails somewhere off the coast of Haiti, desperately trying to find its way home.
The rooftop I sat on harbored a languidly lacing crack. I assume it is an earthquake scar. No trace of the building that stood next door remains. Its crumbled walls and floors claimed the lives of five people in the 2010 tragedy, and it has long since been cleared away. My rooftop survived the violent shake, but a crack divides its surface. Dirt settled into the patched crevice and cradled seeds and then roots. In this makeshift garden, grass lifts golden seed-heads to the morning.
The poverty of Haiti is well-documented. But I went there looking for something else, seeking scintilla of joy and courage. I found what I was looking for.
Now, like the rooftop, my heart cracks to make room for an awakening that no longer fits within who I used to be only a few short days ago. I ponder light blazing that much brighter because of the desolation where it is found.
I wonder in the pre-dawn shadows of a cold Colorado morning, who will I become as my body and soul re-integrate, as the seeds take root in these cracks I painfully and joyfully welcome?