Today we begin to slowly make our way back to normal after a week of Hurricane Sandy-related mayhem two weeks ago and a long weekend this past Thursday and Friday surrounding a national holiday. While the storm came and went and is mostly forgotten by those not life-threateningly affected here, the devastation still being reported in New York City has been ever-present in my thoughts and prayers lately as I have struggled with placing my emotions on what is happening back home and feeling so cut off from a city that has been so much a part of my life. It’s almost a surreal experience now to be in exactly the opposite situation than that which I have grown accustomed to. For the past two years, I have known that I was called to return to Haiti and have lived with that truth at the forefront of most of my decision-making processes. Anyone who got to know me during those two years, regardless of our level of connection, could tell you at least one thing: I ALWAYS talked about Haiti. I strived to stay connected in as many ways as possible with the people of Haiti and friends who travelled back and forth as I experienced the difficulty of being physically removed from a place you call home when there is news of devastation or change and you feel almost as if you are being left behind. For two years I felt that way about Haiti while living in New York City. Now I am finally here; living in Haiti after all of the time that I spent saying, “after I graduate, I’m moving back to Haiti.” And now I am experiencing that being here evokes the same emotions about friends and family in my other “homes” just as being in New York revealed my passion and longing for Haiti. It is an extremely powerful feeling to realize that so many places and people have touched your life in such a way that a piece of your heart will always remain there with them.
So in this time, I am feeling that same “longing” and struggle with being removed from New York City as it fights to pick up its broken and flooded pieces and work together to return to a state of normalcy. I was at a complete loss for how to feel as I spoke with friends and they assured me of their safety despite their loss of power and their emergency evacuations. Trying to feel as a part of the happenings as possible, I was constantly searching for the latest updates from social networks, news sites and pictures. I found myself moved by those who were discovering gratitude in the face of adversity for their daily blessings and struggled with my placing my emotions surrounding people claiming that New York City was the “new third world” or making jokes in bad taste about being forced to live like many of those who I live and work with on a daily basis. I went through just about every emotion and battled with how to feel given the circumstances: helplessness due to my inability to help or see anything going on in New York firsthand; frustration with those who spoke so tastelessly in the face of their own discomfort; respect for those who faced adversity and reached out to help others despite their own discomfort; until I settled on one- thankfulness.
In an uncharacteristically packed Sunday church service this morning, one of our pastors mentioned New York City and the bond we share with its residents as we have all been affected by Hurricane Sandy. He went on to ask that we keep New York in our prayers as they fight to rebuild their city and remain unified in the wake of a disaster. Immediately, thankfulness swept over me. I am so incredibly thankful to have had the privilege of living in New York City for two years and to meet some of the most amazingly unique and selfless people that I will ever know. I am thankful that I continue to receive updates from people confirming their safety and continuing to actively seek out ways that they can help their city get back on its feet. And most of all, I am thankful to live in Haiti. I’m thankful that despite having so little and experiencing such unthinkable destruction of their own, the people of Haiti are faithful, selfless and gracious enough to think of others who struggle. New York City, Haiti is praying for you.
View of New York City from downtown on the Hudson River