We went on a cruise this week. I mean, it was work-related; I was playing. But still, we went on a cruise. My son’s teacher just gave him one piece of homework to complete over our week long trip: a cultural report on Haiti. This was our first stop on the cruise. I was pretty excited because we, as a church, have spent a lot of time and money supporting the people of Haiti over the last few years. I looked forward to seeing this country which had been through so much, that we had prayed for so often. But we didn’t actually see the Haiti I was expecting. We landed at a dock where the surrounding area had been leased by the cruise company for the next 99 years. Everything was geared toward tourists. They weren’t trying to show us Haiti. They were trying to show us what they thought we wanted to see, all the while keeping us very happy and comfortable.
I was proud that my son decided to write a paper comparing what he saw on the trip to what he researched Haiti to be really like. So he said things like, “I saw brightly painted buildings and everything was new and shiny.” “But most dwellings in Haiti are of a poor standard, as the majority of people live in severe poverty. Many houses are one floor high, square and small buildings made of the materials available in the nearby area, with no running water or indoor sewage system.” He talked about the food: “We ate hamburgers, hot dogs, and barbecue chicken. We did have a little rice and beans.” “Mostly, the foods eaten there include rice, beans, yams, and corn. Some of the wealthier residents may be able to afford pork and goat meat.” He wrote about the entertainment: “We played at a water park, played volleyball and swam in the ocean.” “Boys and girls both love to play soccer. Boys play it more because they have more time. Girls like to play rocks and bones. It is played similar to jacks. Kids also like to make homemade kites. Most of the time though they do chores such as getting water for the family.”
He was most excited about sharing with his class that over the hill and out of sight of the tourist section was a large fence with barbed wire and guards. This keeps our little tourist world safe from an invasion by real Haitians. It keeps us from seeing anyone who doesn’t have a uniform and a nametag.
I was grateful that my kid understands enough about the world to see through the facade they showed us. I hope he has as much wisdom in the rest of his life. I was proud that he wanted to explain to his friends the difference in “tourist Haiti” and real Haiti. I was thankful that after spending a week with people who were attempting to satisfy their every whim, he was still in contact with reality, with the difference between gluttony and need. And I was grateful that he wasn’t self-righteous about it. He wasn’t angry. He just wanted to share the truth with his class.
May I be as wise.