Recently, I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite books. I read it when I was younger and I loved it; it helped me mature in my faith before I learned that stars were just burning balls of gas in the sky. I remember feeling so inspired to be a Christian. Someone who gets to love everyone, the way Jesus did. The part I remember the most from reading it the first time is when the author mentioned that he felt it was easier to tell his friends about Christ when he was drinking or high. At first I thought he was a sinner for saying that, but throughout the rest of the book I realized that Christianity just really is about love. It was a good book to read at the age I was; changed how I lived my Christianity. (I’m not saying I went off getting high and drunk because of the book. I’m just saying it taught me not to judge people so much, but rather, get to know them.)
Today I read something that really challenged the way I act here in Haiti. To be honest, sometimes it’s really hard to be here.
It’s not because I’m in a new country. I’ve had to get used to being an expat. The past six years I’ve been going to countries where being blonde haired with blue eyes makes me stick out like a fish out of water. Not like a fish at the market out of the water but one that’s in the middle of the ocean out of the water, that would be strange to see… Sometimes I feel like I’m the main attraction at a circus. Germany was easier; until I tried to speak, then it was back to being “the American.” Sometimes it’s really easy, like in the Dominican. When people ask me what it’s like to walk down the streets, if I feel safe, I always reply with this, “Yes, I feel safe. I just have to tone out what they are saying.” The next question is always, the one you just asked, “What do they say?” I simply reply with, “what any latin culture would say to a blonde haired, blue eyed girl; they get my name wrong and try calling me Linda.” (Linda means beautiful in Spanish.)
Here though, I don’t know the language, and I can’t visually blend in. The people I do blend in with, it isn’t always a good message to Haitians. (You can ask me what that initials later.) That makes it hard. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m being given undeserved praise for being different or being racially discriminated. (Don’t get me wrong, I love it here…just had to point this out) I’ve had to learn that sometimes, it’s best to not know what people are saying as we drive down the street. That’s weird to me. Intentional naïvety: I don’t like it. It’s not the way it should be, especially when it makes me feel like it’s stopping me from getting to know the people and I know that getting to know people is when you see their beauty. This is what has challenged me today. In my book, the author mentioned something that has helped me love being here. But has challenged my judgmental attitude that comes with only being able to pick up on body language and sounds. In all reality, it’s hit my judgmental attitude that attacks everyone, not just Haitians. The author actually gets his words from a quote by Mother Teresa. Some one asked her how she was able to love so many people; her reply was lovely, one of beauty. Honestly it makes me wish I could meet her, because it’s as salty to the world as is the ocean’s waters or the depths of a salt shaker. (Matthew 5. 13-16 reference) She replied to her questioner that she loved people because they are Jesus. Read that again, slower if it wasn’t impacting. I literally put the book down and said wow. I knew that I wanted to act towards people as if I were Jesus, sharing love to them the way He would have, but to act in a way as if they were Jesus. That changes everything.
Could you imagine?
I am bewildered at the thought to be able to talk to Jesus every day in such a way. That’s just neat. Could you imagine not just passing someone by on the street ignoring them, but rather, looking at them and treating them better than yourself? That when someone walks in your home, you host and love them as if they just died for you and literally saved your life for eternity? It just makes me smile. What a new meaning for hosting mission teams for when I go back to the Dominican Republic. So many people deserve so much more respect for being who they are then I give them. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty good at internally judging people. But if I acted towards everyone as if I already knew and loved them, well, that’s how it’s suppose to be right? That’s what being a Christian is all about; love. The love that a father gave, the love that laid down His life for people who weren’t even alive yet but will wrong Him, and that love lives in us. It makes sense. If I say I have that love in me and so does a brother or sister in Christ, then why wouldn’t I treat them as though they were Jesus? Now that’s real beauty.
When I think about the Haitians on the street; Jesus knows them, He can speak to them, and He loves them. Not only that, they are truly beautiful people. Why wouldn’t I love them as if they were Jesus? Why wouldn’t I love anyone as if they were Jesus?