Camp has ended. My vacation has ended. My Chop Point rehab has ended. And, as I sometimes feel, my dream life has ended.
I love working in Haiti. I truly do. It keeps me on my toes with fresh adventures and fresh challenges every day. It encompasses me with people who build me up simply by their constant attention directed at me. It gives me children to love year round. It saves me from winter weather and from long hours in an American hospital. It teaches me that being alive is a rare and precious gift.
But working in Haiti is also incredibly difficult. I am faced daily by situations that are beyond my skills and my wisdom. I have to always be at least a little bit on my guard for both physical danger and for dishonesty in those I interact with. I am asked a million times a day to give, sometimes that which is within my power to give, frequently, that which is not. And though I am always with people, we share such different life stories that I sometimes feel very alone.
At Chop Point, the demands on me are demands that I can meet. "Listen to me talk about my parents' divorce." "Take me to a doctor's appointment so I can have a strep test." "Come play frisbee!" At Chop Point, I don't have to face that awful question: do I believe this person's story and give them money or do I not? At Chop Point, I don't wonder at bedtime if I will survive the night. At Chop Point, I truly feel like those around me love me, simply because they love me, not because they are hoping to get some material thing in return.
It is hard to walk away from that dream life now and return to the harsh reality of Haiti. But this year, even more so than past years, I needed that time at Chop Point. Several senior staff members commented when they bid me farewell that I look completely different now than I did at the beginning of the summer. They're right. My 2 months at Chop Point gave me lasting security for the first time since January. It allowed me to shed the burden of responsibility for so many people and let others take care of me for a little while. It provided the time and the sanctuary to cry. Perhaps most powerfully, it reminded me that life can be fun.
In the midst of infirmary time, ultimate games of ultimate, lifeguarding, and sailboat seaweed attacks (instead of cannonballs - much easier to clean up) I was able to set aside time to read books about suffering and to cry at God. For the first few weeks, those moments were the best part of my day. Later, as the kids and staff grew into my mini-family, I realized that I was able to share my story with them and include them on the journey. Though I can speak confidently at chapel about talking to God no matter what state of mind you're in, I continue to struggle to redefine my relationship with God. It's a process, and I am slowly coming to grips with the probable truth that I will battle these questions for the rest of my life. The grief which is still relatively fresh will fade, but the "Why?" will always be there. So long as my mangled faith survives, so will I.
So thank you. Thank you Haiti-world for letting me take a leave of absence. Thank you family for sharing me with others, yet again. Thank you Chop Point extended community for your constant prayer and hospitality. Thank you staff for never failing to ask how I was and for showing me such love and solidarity. Thank you campers for telling me in a million silly ways that it's OK to laugh and that life is, in fact, worth living.