Today I had an idea, a dream to share a resource with the community if they would put some ownership into it as well. I asked some of the people around me, “Kisa ou ponse?” – what do you think?, getting their opinion as I shared the possibility and brainstormed.
Then I got this response:
“There’s a principle in Haiti, a mentality. If you want to give something as a gift, people want it. If you want to give it and ask them to do something, they’ll leave because they want it as a gift instead.”
Great. That was encouraging. Especially since it’s the epitome of the subject of every “What Helping Hurts”-related author, TEDtalk, or resource.
We had a talk about how that mentality isn’t true to everyone – giving an example of people even in that conversation – but there was definitely not a optimistic response.
But then, in the same day –
There have been multiple homeless teenagers around us lately. There have been other needs around us, others with housing problems, and other stories to tell. But one of the many stories have been these teens.
Our reaction every time is to pray. Our reaction is always to listen. Our reaction is always to speak the truth that we can – lifting people up, telling them their worth, reminding individuals they DO have purpose when they don’t feel it.
With a few of these stories – none of them are related, and these are months and months building together – we have ended up feeling led to help. But – and it is a but that has made us feel uncomfortable, even wanting to back out in the moment – we offer an opportunity to get help and work for it. Not because we need the work (it’s hard to find work to be done!) – but so we are not the savior, we are not giving handouts, and people can feel the dignity of THEIR home.
Today was another homeless teenage mother. She had found a room to rent as a home. We had talked about it before, I had prayed with her, she has been struggling without a place to call home for months. Today, I brought up the line I hate saying – “I want you to own it. Do you still to do this?”
It’s awkward to ask this for the exact reason that was quoted earlier. There are many people that would either walk away or be frustrated that I won’t just “give a gift”.
But here’s the thing….for the THIRD time (there have been three situations like this), I did not see frustration. I did not see eyes that looked down at the ground, avoiding me. I saw a glittering pair of eyes looking back at me excitedly – “Yes! That’s what I want to do!”
There was no, “I don’t want what you have to offer if it is not a gift.”
Instead, there was a willingness to have skin in the game, for personal ownership – not only a willingness, but saying, “That’s what I WANT, I want to be able to have ownership in this!”
Instead, there was a huge smile after we talked through the idea, “This house is not something that someone else is getting. This is a home YOU are working for. It is going to be YOURS.”
I do not have all the answers and I do not have a long term solution for jobs right now – and these teens have all known that. A home does not mean water, charcoal, soap, rice, oil, beans, medicine, or tap-tap costs every day. I am unequipped and acting in faith that God does not tell us to do something without knowing what the other side of the obedience is.
But for now….I believe in you, Haiti. I believe in your youth. I believe that “the principles” that some live by don’t get the final say. I believe in your tomorrow. I believe that cycles are being broken, and they will continue to break and make way for healthier ones.