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  • Laura MacNeil Smith

Hand In Hand

“Do you want to see the twins?” she asks me.

“Of course” I say.

She brings me into the cement walled house and on the middle of the double bed lay two baby boys, cooing beside each other. Two heads full of shiny dark hair. Four tiny arms waving around. They are beautiful and healthy.

Her quaint home sits on top of the mountain, with chickens running around freely in the “lakou” surrounded by bright green banana trees and other plants. We arrived sweaty and tired, like we usually do this time every month to deliver her Family Food Kit. I couldn’t help but notice the fatigue set deep in the lines of her face. Last year was a difficult one for most of us, but what a year it was for her. She lost her son—a bright, talented young man with a passion for music who should have had many years and opportunities ahead of him. He was shot and murdered after attending a concert in Port au Prince. His death rocked our entire community.

And now, her daughter. Just six days after giving birth to the twins, she died from complications. The babies’ father wants to remain fairly uninvolved, which is more common than you might think. At 70 something years old, Grandma and a few other family members are now left with the responsibility of raising these two beautiful baby boys. She is carrying the burden of what it is to lose two children far too early in life. No mother should have to bury their children.

I cannot imagine the weight of it all.

My heart just broke.

I wish I could tell you that things like this don’t happen that often, but in fact, situations like these are becoming more and more common. Though I tend to focus on the beauty and joy that is found in Haiti, the daily struggles here seem to keep growing. Gang violence. Poor healthcare. Food and economic insecurity. I want to say that things have gotten better since I moved here in 2014, but it actually feels just the opposite. There have been more gas shortages, kidnappings, protests and corruption even in the past two years than I ever imagined there would be. Everyone knows we have these struggles here in Haiti, that is nothing new, but the magnitude of them doesn’t settle in until it affects your life day in and day out. Looking into the eyes of those it directly impacts, you feel that injustice deep down into your soul.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot time praying for answers. It seemed like the more and more I prayed for answers, the more the Lord offered me His presence instead. Not a promise that we would solve hardships or things would get easier, but a promise that we would not have to be alone. A promise that He understands and feels the pain of injustice too. A promise not to have to walk through it on our own. And if the Lord promises to walk with me, the least I can do is walk with those around me too. We were not made to fix every problem, but to be a good neighbor. To let others know that they are not alone in the struggle. I can’t take away the burdens and the grief, but I can help manage the load by walking through it together. I don’t have the answers, but what I do have is compassion for those right in front of me, to help meet a need, and another, and another. One at a time.

When I look at the country as a whole, it doesn’t seem like things are getting better but when I look at those I’m blessed to share my life with—my hope is renewed. A grandmother who will do whatever it takes to raise her grandsons. Some of The CAMP staff who work so incredibly hard so their children can attend the best schools in Jacmel. Our teenagers who dream of being artists and doctors and teachers. I am confident that they are the ones who will go out and bring real change. And until then, we will walk through the struggle together. Hand in hand, and not alone.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even through I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(The CAMP continues to support Mama Guy James through our Family Food Kit program. We are looking for $100 in recurring donations towards this program to be able to provide baby formula for the twins each month. If you would like to help, please follow the link below.)

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