I wanted to write this long ago when we had that Sunday school lesson about generosity. I've thought about it alot since then. We had a sermon on it the same day and then I had this little happening in the afternoon...
When I finally got lunch cleaned up, we went a llooonng ways thru traffic to look at some pieces of land that someone had told Zèzè about. He's from Cazeau congregation and his wife used to work with Zèzè. He met us by the road and we looked at the land, and then he insisted that we come in and see their yard before we left. They have a beautiful space with plants everywhere!!! I oohed and ahhed and dreamed of having a big garden and fruit trees like that while the guys cut down a piece of sugar cane to send with us. Inside, his wife was cooking and apologizing that she didn't have juice for us. So we sat and drank water and talked, and all the sudden she was dishing up a huge bowl of boiled plantains and potatoes and what not all... They call it "viv" or life... with two whole fish on top. Then she added coconut tarts and some little candies and went out and picked enough cherries for us to make two pitchers of juice.
When we were finally on the way home, I commented how lucky they were to have that garden and be able to make food like that, and Zèzè said, "You don't know. She didn't buy that food. Some family in the mountains with a garden probably gave it to her and it's all she has." And I thought of my refrigerator full of stuff with a big bag of rice on top and said, "Oh."
Later I was telling Zèzè to not take the dish back because I wanted to fill it with something for her. He said, "I'm proud of you. You're starting to sound like a Haitian."
And I said, "What?"
He said, "Americans don't do that."
And so we started a probably two hour discussion about the history of the church in Haiti, the different missionaries and their attitudes, racism, church programs, and wow! By the end I was definitely squirming. It used to make me so mad when people in the street would ask for money and then say, "Ou sheesh"... You're stingy. And now I'm realizing that I am. Compared to them. I want to do better.
Someone in Sunday school said that you have to give without doubting, or it's better to not give at all. Which means that if I question how that person will use the gift, if they will like it, if it's good enough, if they will take care of it.... I have lost the spirit of giving. When I give it, it's up to that person to decide. A little while later my sister in law had a birthday, so I made her cupcakes. The frosting completely flopped, and I just rebelled at the thought that I could make perfect frosting if only I had the ingredients I needed. I didn't even want to give them to her, but I remembered that and had Zèzè take them. I told him he was not supposed to make any excuses. If my in laws go to the grave thinking I don't know how to make frosting I guess it won't kill me.
Another thing someone said was that time, talents, and money all go together with a gift. If you want to sew someone a dress you sacrifice all three. I know there was many times I used to excuse myself from giving money because I was spending lots of time at school... Volunteering to do extra stuff at youth... But seriously the church needs all three. Just this last Sunday I was putting my tithe in the collection and secretly thinking it was a lot of money to let go of. There was a grandma sitting beside me that was not extremely aware of her surroundings anymore, and the person beside reached into her bag and gave her 10 goudes for the offering as the basket came by. I felt about one inch tall.
Since I've been thinking about this, I've realized my head is chuck full of stingy thoughts. I think about how much water and ice I have to lug out to the car wash guys, and sometimes worry when people are around that I'll have to feed them. And then I try to think of cheap food to do instead of making American food that has lots of meat or something... All of it is so ugly and I want to stop.
There is so many people that help us... My mom in law who supplies me with vegatables and other little gifts, the friend that helped us fix the moto for free and faithfully comes and helps with car wash just because he's a good friend. And I've found it's fun to cook for three. It's fun to give my mom in law samples of granola and gourmet potatoes even though she's such a good cook and I'm half intimidated to have her eat anything I make. I enjoy talking to the ladies that catch a ride home from work with me every day, and I keep on the lookout for people we know on the way to school that I could give a ride to. Tomorrow I'm making carrot bread and coffee for the guys. I have so much to learn, and yes, if you call me sheesh, I'll agree that I am. But I want to do better.
They say you're living a good life when the days seem long and the years fly by. And I haven't been here years, but the weeks fly by. Next week is week eight of school, which I can't believe. Yet it seems forever that I've bumped over a road with more pedestrians and motos than cars, dodged potholes and dogs, and had someone ask me what color to color an elephant just as I was finished teaching someone else how to subtract fractions. It seems normal to sing Father Abraham Had Many Sons and Ton Ton Bouki with little boys that sing or shout so loud the veins on their necks pop out. And one of the bigger problems in my life is whether the kickball teams are fair. Yes, Miss Nichols is far behind and at school I do miss her... But Mrs Pinchina is a good life too!
This last week we've had such good evenings. The ones you want to slow the clock for, because it's just you and your best friend, and you know life won't always be this way. I arrange all the food on a cookie sheet, with Coke or juice in the goblets from our honeymoon basket, and we take it out to the beach chairs and eat and talk about life. Good food it is... BBQ sandwiches with scalloped potatoes, fried tortillas with chicken dip and guacamole... And one evening we roasted hot dogs. It was Zèzès first time. We bought a can of charcoal and bent some wire into a roasting stick that was a fail, and I made a fire ring with rocks. I even found a bag of Cheetos for 10 goudes in the boutik.
Once, when Zèzè was acting even a little more like a fearless island man than usual, I said, "I wish my friends could all see you right now, and they would know why I came and married you."
He grinned and said, "You know the problem I have with Americans? If they like something, the pretend they don't. You see me, I always enjoy life."
Amen cheri. Amen.