A Glimmer

Posted Sep 10, 2010 by 6 Comments

It was a blazing hot day in downtown Port-au-Prince.  I had accompanied my translator, Denis, to the crowded street where he sells school-books.  Covered in sweat, I tried to keep up with him as he wove in between the many shops and stalls along the way.

After an hour of walking in the sun, chatting with people next to their kiosks and getting a lot of strange looks and shouts of “Blan! Hey you!” I was ready for a break.

Thankfully, Denis needed to sort through the books he had stored in an alleyway nearby, so we were able to briefly leave the crowds behind.

The collapsed house I saw at the end of the alley.

As he organized the books in a rusty metal box, I took a look around.  Other than a small metal shack with a rusty roof, the L-shaped alleyway was empty.  Just a pile of concrete debris, twisted metal and junk.

Grabbing my camera, I walked farther into the alley to see what else I could find amidst the rubble.  In the back of the alley was a small, ruined concrete building.  As I looked closer, I realized that it was a house. 

After snapping a few pictures, I headed back around the corner to where Denis was.  To my surprise, there was a man standing next to him, looking a bit confused to see me.  Denis turned to me and said, “This is Luxon.  That used to be his house.”

Realizing how insensitive I must have appeared with my camera in my hand, I immediately began to apologize.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!  I didn’t know…”

Luxon Calixete, a brave father fighting hard to take care of his four children.

But instead of translating my words to Luxon, Denis simply said, “Would you like to hear his story?”

Still wondering if I needed to apologize, I quickly said “yes,” and dove into my backpack for a note-pad…

In an Instant

Before the earthquake, Luxon Calixete (pronounced Li-xon Ca-lix) lived a life similar to many Haitians who call Port-au-Prince home.  Although far from well-to-do, Luxon was able to provide for his family through his job as a security guard. 

On January 11, Luxon had a wife, a job, a house, and four beautiful children (including a one-month old baby girl).  On January 12 – in an instant – everything he knew had changed forever.

When rescuers made it to Luxon’s house after the earthquake, they found his wife dead beneath the rubble and his baby girl miserably frightened, but alive. His other three children, who had been away from home during the quake, also survived.

So, with four children, no home and no job, Luxon began a new season in his life… as the sole provider for his family.

Today, he lives with his children in a rusty metal shack built near the entrance of the alley that once held his home.

Luxon takes part-time work whenever he can, but with Haiti’s ruined economy, there are far too many workers for far too few jobs.  He has barely enough money for food, and looks with trepidation at the future.  Schools re-open in October, and Luxon has no idea where he’ll get the money for his three older children’s school fees.

A toy outside of Luxon’s house.

With no house, no job, no food and no money, the future looks rather bleak for Luxon.

“Only God knows”

Unfortunately, Luxon’s story is only one of many similar stories that I have heard since coming to live among the IDPs.

The other day I met a man named Jacob Jean-Charles in a tent camp by a river.  After talking with him for a few minutes about his job situation (occasional part-time work like Luxon), I asked if he would show me where he was living.  He took Denis and me to a tent like many others in that particular camp and introduced us to his family.

Apparently Jacob had found a bit of work the day before.  His children were eating soup made from plantains.  His wife was in a good mood.  But as I talked more with him about his situation, it became apparent that things were not going well for his family.

Jacob Jean-Charles with his wife and one of his children.

Sometimes Jacob finds work.  Sometimes his wife makes a few gourdes washing someone’s clothes.  But it isn’t enough.  “When we don’t have enough money for food,” he told me, “we just lay down in the tent.”

Like most of the 1.3 million Haitians living in tents right now, Jacob struggles to get by.

The day after seeing Jacob’s family, I met an 81 year old woman named Gatilia Lizair in a tent community across the street from the ruined presidential palace.  She was sitting on the ground in the doorway to her tent, too feeble to get up and move around.  Her family takes care of her when they can, but as with Luxon, the story is the same.  They don’t have food.  They don’t have work.  They don’t have a house…

After hearing a bit of her story, I asked her, “Do you think there is any hope for your family?  Do you imagine things getting better for you in the future?”

Her response was simple.  “Only God knows.”

Glimmers of Hope

Story after story.  Heartbreak after heartbreak.  It seems like there is no hope for Haiti.  And looking at the big picture (endless tent communities, a shattered economy, hundreds of thousands in desperate need), it would seem like that is the case. 

Gatilia Lizair. Although getting on in years, she was quick to share her smile.

But I have discovered something among the tents and the rubble and the poverty that comes as a bit of a surprise.  Time after time, as I have struggled to come to grips with the immense injustices weighing down on the Haitian people, I have noticed little glimmers of light in the midst of the darkness.

I have seen row after row of kiosks, set up in the rubble of collapsed buildings… shopkeepers refusing to give up their trade.

I have seen children eagerly writing down their names for me… young scholars refusing to give up their education.

I have seen neighbors coming together to share what little they have… communities refusing to give up their hospitality.

And I have seen countless shared smiles, prayers and encouraging handshakes… Christ-followers refusing to give up their joy.

This is the hope that I have for Haiti:  it is a whole country full of people that refuse to give up… that refuse to give in.  Although reconstruction may take more than a decade, the Haitians I’ve met will rise to the challenge.

A child in a tent village eagerly writing down his name for me.

This hope may not be big and glamorous.  It may not make for great slogans.  But the Haitian people are some of the most resilient I’ve ever seen. 

Come what may, they will endure.

——–

Looking back now at the three stories I shared above, I realize that even in those tragic lives I could see the same glimmers of hope.

With Gatilia, I saw a woman who was ready to hold onto her faith, even in the midst of crippling uncertainty about the future.  With Jacob, I saw a father willing to do whatever it takes to provide for his wife and kids.

And with Luxon, I saw a man whose main goal in life is to build a new home for his children.  Why?  So that they can have a safe place to return each day from school (whether or not they will attend doesn’t even cross his mind).

These are not defeated people.  They are fighters.  And even though it often exists in little more than a glimmer…

I do have hope for Haiti.

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Next Steps
    • Pray for Luxon, Jacob, Gatilia and their families. With many aid organizations pulling out of Haiti, there are still many practical needs on the ground. And though they are resilient, long-term committed care will be necessary to get them back on their feet.
    • Use your time, your money or your talents to join with organizations here in Haiti that will be here for the long haul. Nehemiah Vision Ministries is a great example.
    • Send a few World Next Door articles to friends, neighbors or co-workers. Helping them see the need in Haiti is a great first step to them getting involved!
    Next Steps

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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Comments

  1. Jim M said... 

    Reply

    September 10th, 2010 at 7:21 am  

    Unimaginable, what suffering you have shown. The loss of a spouse with the constant reminder of your life partner in the face of a newborn who arrived just before her death, coupled with the strong need to go on, to provide for your children amidst the backdrop of a crumbled place where life was so different, so whole, so complete. All changed in less than 10 minutes. Unimaginable…what strength it would require every day to face this. Where would one find such strength…Oh God, be with them.

    Today my problems are very small.

  2. joe b said... 

    Reply

    September 10th, 2010 at 8:11 am  

    As a father of four I most relate to Luxon. Yet what he is enduring is heart wrenching and at the same time challenging.

    God, I pray, this day give them their daily bread.

  3. Dave Rod said... 

    Reply

    September 10th, 2010 at 8:59 am  

    I understand your reticence to take pictures and I heard it in your voice as you interviewed Luxon. This was holy ground you were visiting. One of those thin spaces where earth and heaven meet. God is there with him and his 4 children. I can’t imagine any other way that this dear father can get up and live another day.

    I want to take off my shoes.

  4. Jo Nading said... 

    Reply

    September 10th, 2010 at 9:20 am  

    I can’t imagine …. just can’t imagine not having a single moment to grieve the loss of a wife and mother…and in a time when children so want the comfort of a mom while ‘daddy’ takes care in those daddy ways. Loss, role reversals, hunger, fear….and hope? Wow.

    I so respect your sensitivity to Luxon, Barry. This man (and so many others in Haiti) should be honored, and I believe you allowed that space for him. I am so grateful for those who allow you ‘in’ so that we may see God at work in these awful places.

    I find myself sitting here just shaking my head – and I am not even exactly sure why.

  5. Parke Ladd said... 

    Reply

    September 10th, 2010 at 9:41 pm  

    It’s incredible the number of stories like these still pouring out of Haiti, and yet it’s so difficult to place my own life into the story of a man like Luxon. The experience which they are enduring is truly heart wrenching. It doesn’t matter how many times I read about the Haitian situation, it still seems so hopeless, so utterly despondent. It is good to read that there is still some hope alive deep within the character of the people striving through this disaster.

    I hope you are right, Barry, that Haitians will persevere, continue to fight and move forward. Much prayer, contemplation, skill and wisdom are needed in rebuilding there. The Haitian people have gone through so much, and they are going to have to fight through so much more. They’ll still be fighting and struggling for hope long after American suburbanites have forgotten their cries for help. Hopefully, much can be done before that happens.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  6. kathy w said... 

    Reply

    September 10th, 2010 at 11:12 pm  

    Hi, Barry,
    It was mentioned that some Grace women made little girls’ dresses which were sent to Haiti. Can you provide me with some details as to what is needed as I would like to motivate some friends to make some shorts for boys and skirts for girls. We could also include T-shirts to go with the handmade items. Would these clothing items be useful?

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