A flight to Port Au Prince
I’m supposed to be on a plane to Port Au Prince tonight.
For the past few months, my friend Lei and I have been planning a trip to Haiti to capture some footage from Fonds-Verrettes, a village where Plant With Purpose works. Our goal was to meet with as many members of the community as we could and to tell a few of their stories with video.
Then, over last weekend, this happened:
The synopsis is that Haiti’s government has been under international pressure to stop subsidizing fuel. They announced they would, raising fuel costs significantly. Haitians took to the street in violent demonstrations that shut down roads, burnt cars, and caused casualties.
The US State Department issued a travel alert, ordering Americans to shelter in place. At many of the westernized hotels bricks were thrown through windows.
It isn’t too unusual for there to be some sort of unrest around Port Au Prince, though this was much more severe than usual. I tried carefully monitoring the situation online to see if things would improve.
They did, but our Haitian director still advised that I cancel the trip.
So I’ll be going in August instead.
Something struck me over the past several days, as I’ve been refreshing Twitter for the latest on Port Au Prince: while this situation was drastic, there was hardly any attention paid to it within the US.
I saw no news coverage, no headlines at all. Even on Facebook, where my news feed holds every strongly held opinion about every single topic, I only came across one solitary post shared by a friend who once lived in Haiti.
I could reflect on how selective Western media is with what it chooses to cover. I could go on about how we pay far more attention to trivial things, personalities rather than issues, gossip rather than ideas. I could suggest that we really don’t care about things that happen to other people, unless it starts to affect us.
But here’s the thing-
It’s my problem too.
I doubt I would be saying anything about the demonstrations in Haiti if they didn’t interfere with my travel arrangements. I only started to pay attention when it started to affect my plans.
So rather than tricking myself into getting self righteous about anything, I’ll just say this: it’s an amazing thing to care and be compassionate towards people even when they aren’t right in front of us.
In a lecture last year, Marianne Williamson said that in times when headlines become too much to bear, the answer isn’t disengagement or looking the other way. It’s chasing those headlines down with prayers- “Dear God, use me!”
This is why I look forward to my rescheduled trip to Haiti. Storytelling is my calling. It helps us build compassion across all kinds of lines.
Love will indeed save the world, but it won’t be a convenient sort of love. It won’t be the sort of love that has limits, geographic boundaries, or national borders. It’ll be the sort of love that shows compassion for children on the other side of the world. It’ll be the sort of love that can find the image of God in a foreign stranger.
See you soon, Haiti.