Do you have entertaining anxiety? I did (and I still come down with a touch of it every now and then, especially if someone important is invited). How did I get over it? It dawned on me that I had never once resented being invited to someone's home. I never wondered, "Chips and dip? BYOB? Really? That's it?" or "Wow. Look at that stain on the sofa. These people are real slobs." Nope. I'm flattered and happy to be invited to mingle with old friends and meet new ones. Huge bash or intimate soiree, four course dinner or potluck — thank you for having me! This was even more clear on my recent trip to Cange, Haiti.
On Saturday, we hiked three hours up a mud-slicked mountain to visit an elementary school at Mont Michel. The path, what there was of it, was uneven and rocky. The children at the top — willing to hike every day, for education and a full meal — sang a welcome song when we arrived and smiled when they saw the jump ropes and soccer balls we brought.
On Sunday, several of us walked down the hill from our temporary home at Bon Sauveur, descending 537 steps to see the local water source, learning how water is filtered for the people above. The steps were difficult, especially after our hike of the day before. I can only imagine what it was like for the people who laid the pipe, all the way up the steep hill, at first without even the minimal benefit of steps.
We visited an orphanage, unable to do more than play with the children, offer a few fun snacks and hold any child that wanted to be held for the short time we were there. Wilky, a toddler, sat on my lap and shared his fruit snacks with me, biting each one in half before putting the other half directly into my mouth. A visit to the Bon Sauveur pediatric clinic left me unable to understand why my own family was so lucky. My heart broke for the mothers there as I held an impossibly tiny little girl, born three months early.
I was hardly in a celebratory mood on Sunday evening, when our group was invited to the home of Jackie Williams, a lovely woman from South Carolina, the founder and director of Sant Art (The Art Center). We arrived wet and slightly muddy, and our hostess welcomed us with open arms and a feast. Perfect wine, exquisitely aged cheese and endless buckets of ice aren't available in Cange. Jackie's menu was simple, but never has a chardonnay tasted so delicious and undeserved. We mingled with engineering students from Clemson University there to help develop clean water systems, Haitian students from Bon Sauveur, dedicated Zanmi Lasante workers and Jackie, our gracious hostess.
The room was crowded, made more so by the laughter and continuous flow of conversation. The sliced apples were delicious and salami has never been more luxurious. But it wasn't about the food, or even the beautiful hand embroidered cocktail napkins from Sant Art. The party was about guests, and I was happy to be one of them. Was the floor swept? The lighting just right? If my memory serves correctly, everything was perfect.
(Images: Anne Postic)