We were standing in front of at least 100 children. They were sitting on rocky and dry ground in a tent camp under a summer sun with a heat index of 115 degrees. They were dirty and hungry and wounded. We were totally surrounded with what seemed to be 1000 people at one point. I was having to practically scream so they could all hear me because it was so loud. Telling them how strong they were. How I was in Congo when I heard about the earthquake. I heard about them singing and dancing in the streets. How they had taught the rest of the world about hope and survival. Telling them how God was actually the closest to them at the very moment they felt their deepest abandonment. As if I knew first hand. As if I really had the right to be telling them that at all.
We had just given the children paper to draw their heartaches and stories of the earthquake.... inviting them to draw God in the middle of that heartache to remind them that God was with them. Starting to hand out the crayons one by one, it quickly became a mob of little Haitian hands surrounding us. Poking us. Prodding us. Louder and Closer and Pushing and Shoving and beginning to Yell. For what?
For One Crayon.
We were handing them out as quickly as we could and they were grabbing them even quicker. All I could feel were little fingers all around me.
"Blanche! Blanche!" ("white person. white person")
Sweet fingers poking harder at every inch of me they could find. Mother's shoving their children closer and closer to me. My heart racing faster. The sun beater harder. Space to even move become scarce. Almost falling over at one point. Louder and louder.
Poke. Prod. Shove.
Handing out crayons as fast we we could move. One prod. One poke was more intense than the others. Poke. Prod. Poke. Irritating, actually. Fed up - I looked down.
It wasn't a hand asking to receive a crayon at all. It was the first hand practically begging me to take what was in it. A picture. Of her heartache. I looked in her eyes. The hundreds of people faded away at that one moment, and I took her gift to me. She was smiling. So much.
As if it were normal. As if it were just a part of life. It is.
Her drawing? Her mother lying down dead after the earthquake and what seems to be a spirit or an angel in the room. She wanted to show me. Desperately show me. And soon there were more. Giving out crayons quickly gave way to grasping drawings as quickly as possible. They wanted to give us their drawings of their heartaches as much or more as they wanted a crayon.
One crayon. One heartache. One day. One earthquake.
Hundreds of broken Haitian hearts resulting in a flood of forced Hope that most of us would have stopped searching for. But not them.
"Many have come to God from the earthquake. Out of their suffering they have found Wisdom. They have found Hope...."
I keep that drawing with me. In my calendar. Sometimes I run my fingers over it just to be as close as I can be to that day. So I will never forget. So I will never stop learning from children who have suffered. As long as I live. As long as I breathe. Brings me back to this:
"And I will run from a Wisdom that does not Weep. Philosophy that does not Laugh. And a Greatness that does not bow before children" – Gibran