In January when the earthquake in Haiti shook the world into action, Embraced too was one of the organizations which, in a small part, helped. We sent equipment on its way, to hopefully, provide a resource to help to heal all the broken bones, ligaments, and quite possibly, ultimately heal the hearts that were crushed as a result of the destruction. While we of course were called into immediate action, I knew that when all the rubble was cleared, when the dust settled, we would then, finally see the true reality of this event.
Fast forward a few months, my intern mentions a story about this young Haitian amputee in Atlanta he saw on the news the night before. He follows through with contacting them. Before you know it I am across the table from Franz and Guerline. Guerline, a few years older than me, sat across the table, missing her left arm. As many times as I have seen the lack of limbs, it still manages to perplex me. I secretly hope that it is just my brain playing an optical illusion on my eyes and that if I rub them hard enough that maybe possibly that might restore what is not there. I hate it because it never does and I want so badly to fix it.
We get through the normal conversation that occurs in Atlanta every August about how hot it is as we excuse the multitude of sweat stains that accrue as a result of just simply existing outside. I then invite the inevitable but necessary account of why Frantz and Guerline are sitting in front of me rather than back home, in Haiti. "So- tell me your story" I say.
I love hearing people's stories. It is a way for me to somehow transcend into their thoughts, feelings and emotions. I suppose it is the closest way for me to feel like I actually might be able to understand and might possibly build that bridge that allows me to connect to them.
As Guerline spoke in her native creole tongue, while understood every third word from my fluency in another latin-based language, I felt every word. Each and every word piled on my chest- no my heart, like a ton of bricks. I stared into her eyes, to somehow give her a hug, comfort as she relayed to me the horrific and horrendous series of circumstances which resulted in her, one less arm, sitting in front of me, looking for someone, something to make her whole again. Tears rolled out of my eyes unexpectedly.
At this moment, I realized why it is that I have spent the last almost two years struggling, trying so hard to get a non-profit off the ground. It is moments like these that give you the energy and potency to keep persisting, keeping moving forward regardless of the fact that you have no salary, yet. I take these moments as messages, clues along my journey, hinting to me that I am on the right road, regardless if it is uphill at this moment.
We wrapped up the meeting a little bit changed. Guerline's face was washed of the hard look that people sometimes get after they have knocked on every door possible, only to receive one rejection after the next. She smiled after I told her that Embraced will help her, staring into my soul, deliberately saying to me "Merci" as if she not only wanted me to hear it, but rather to feel her gratitude.
I found myself saying "thank you" to her. Thank you Guerline, for the opportunity to help you. Thank you for being the one that reminds me just how spectacular and special the act of making someone else's tears my tears, my prayers, and now my mission.