It is the little things…
The depth and width of the problems here in Haiti are, it seems, unsurmountable; unless you pay attention to the little things; the simplicity of the little things in life that makes the complicated manageable. This is one of the reasons that gives my work here at Clean Water for Haiti meaning and a purpose. This is not to say that a clean water resource isn’t a big thing because it is huge, tre gwo (very big); it is the rainbow at the end of the storm. What it does say is even when complicated, unexpected, or problematic situations or events occur, I find that in paying attention to the small things the big things just don’t seem all that overwhelming; they are manageable.
Just this past week we experienced a refresher course in this thought process firsthand. Things had been going rather well over the past months. We have a full staff, all happy campers. We started construction on our new facility, all on schedule and with minimal kinks in the chain. We are the recipients of a much needed and generous Rotary grant which will ensure continual filter production through the end of the year, all good news for our staff and the communities in which we serve. It seems we were even in the good favor of Mother Nature as we experienced an unusual extra month of continued pleasant weather; all temperatures under 85 are most certainly considered God’s blessings here in Haiti. And then came the week of unrelenting complications, all roadblocks to our sense of peace and well-being.
On Monday of that week, Leslie and Chewie started out for Port au Prince in one of our work trucks, a long and arduous drive in the best of circumstances, and only made it a few miles down the road when a tire went flat. Not usually a big problem, unless the spare is flat. By the time Leslie gets back home, she is really sick with fever and a sick stomach and goes straight to bed. By that afternoon, I was sick with the same symptoms. Never a good thing when the two admin people are sick at the same time. Later that day the other work truck came down sick as well. So we were then two vehicles and two staff down. We can handle this, no problem.
The next morning our van presented symptoms of ill-repair, and by that afternoon it broke our hearts to witness the van being towed off to Port au Prince for a major repair job. To add to the dilemma, our motorcycles were feeling a bit puny themselves; out of all of our vehicles, I believe we were down to a couple of the bikes, and of course there is always a tap tap. Leslie and I missed all of this excitement because we were still sick in bed. In a matter of just over 24 hours, our little piece of paradise became a paradigm for disaster …. A comedy of headaches and a choir of disgruntlements. And the temperature hit over 90 that same day.
In the midst of all the mess, it was the little things that kept us going; it was the little things that rose through the ruckus and shined their happy faces, as if God was sending a beacon of light to say, “Hey, I got this.”
One of the first things I noticed was the staff and their concern for my well-being. I would get up in the morning and attempt to make it to our morning prayer time, but that didn’t last long. They knew I felt bad and their smiles on the third morning, when I did make it through, reflected their concerns. Kind words are free and compassion is long reaching …. Simple small things.
Our in-house mechanic jumped right in. He worked long and hard hours, as if the whole functionality of our organization depended entirely on him. The whole time he smiled as he shook his head. Stepping up to the plate to get a job done is simple enough, commitment is a step further, and smiling about it all the while. Smiles are easy, especially right slam in the middle of aggravation …. Simple small things.
The morning we had no vehicles, the overall aura of the group could have easily been one of stress and worry. However, that was not the case here at Clean Water as ripples of laughter and comraderies drifted over from the work yard. It is easy to let happiness slip away from us when things go awry. Laughter brightens dark days and doesn’t take a whole lot of work …. Simple small things.
One afternoon I overheard Alex and Olivia attempting to play jump rope out in the yard. Now, that is something that absolutely takes three people, but Alex was giving it a good go, while Olivia tried and tried again to get one good jump in. I managed to go outside and help just for a bit, before I got weak again. Helping others, even if it is just turning a rope, or offering a glass of water, or perhaps even a squeeze of a hand will put a song in a heart …. Simple small things.
One of the nights Leslie and I had a Bible Study/Birthday celebration for one of the ladies in our group. The fellowship of friends and the sharing of a meal, also easy to do, will cheer a soul…. Simple small things.
Lastly, as I sat out on my deck towards the end of this disastrous week, I watched in awe at the beauty around me. A cool breeze, waves lapping at the shore, the smells of spring flowers attracting bumble bees and humming birds, and a brilliantly colorful Haitian sunset – all free, all gifts of God, that made me catch my breath and silently utter praises of gratitude …. Simple small things.
There is a Haitian proverb that speaks to appreciating the little things, “Anpil ti patat fe chay” (Many little sweet potatoes make a load); many small things amount to much. In Luke 16:10 Jesus tells us that if we are faithful even in the little things, then we will be faithful in the bigger things. Yes, we had a rough week, and yes, it was costly, both in time, efforts, and finances. The point is that the big things didn’t win but they did help us to appreciate the simple small things.