I sit enjoying Billy’s company on a wooden bench shaded from the hot Caribbean sun. He is eloquent. He is intelligent. His smile genuine. His joyful spirit contagious. He speaks excellent English with a beautiful accent. Dressed handsomely in navy blue pants and button-down shirt, he may as well be an old friend from back home. But he is not.
In just one day, my Haitian brother has gripped my heart.
He did not choose poverty.
He did not choose hunger.
He did not choose life in Tent City.
He asks about my life. What can I say?
I live in a 5 bedroom home, of which only 3 bedrooms are slept in on a regular basis. I have cupboards full of food and regularly toss uneaten leftovers in the garbage. Clean drinking water flows from multiple faucets and ice pops out of my freezer with the push of a button.
My voice falters. I can’t verbalize the discrepancy between his life and mine. So I speak of things that don’t accentuate the contradiction that is my abundance and his scarcity.
Then he asks the question I can’t circumvent. The one that is forever etched in my mind.
“Have you for even one second in your life been hungry?”
It takes all I have to look into his eyes, but I owe him an honest answer.
“No, Billy. I have never known what it is to be hungry. Every day of my entire 37 years, I have had more than enough.”
When I returned home from that trip to Haiti several years ago, my more than enough broke my heart into pieces. Every bit of abundance caused an ache inside. But I trusted then, and I still trust now, that God breaks hearts so he can mold them into something new. So he can impart his perfect love into our imperfect beings.
It is not a mistake that I was born into a middle class family in the middle of one of the most prosperous places on earth. And it is not a mistake that Billy was born into poverty in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. We are both equally precious to our Savior. It is a mistake when I take my abundance for granted. It is a mistake when my primary concern is for my own comfort and well-being.
The more God opens my eyes to my blessings, the more I am convinced of the importance of using my abundance to love and serve others.
I know that as I sit here with my coffee and my laptop, my God – the one who is able to save little American girls and little Haitian boys – is working on the inside making me a new creation to do the work which he has prepared in advance for me to do.
And my friends, a new creation ever growing in the desire to serve and obey my God is exactly what I want to be.