Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hard Life, Big Smile

Smiles seem more dazzling in Port-au-Prince, where they stand out against the harshness of life and the bleakness of the cityscape. This man is one of the lucky poor. He has a job. He cleans our floors and bathroom, and he cleans them very well. He removes his shoes when he comes into the room so that he does not track while he mops; he puts one of those white paper bands over the toilet bowel when he has finished cleaning it; he scrubbed part of the floor extra hard to get up a sticky substance. He has pride in his work. This is not true of all of his counterparts. Some of them beg from us, an offense that would get them fired if the owners of the hotel knew about it.

But many of the staff here are very competent. As I was writing this, a waiter we particularly admire handed me a piece of paper with the word “saucers” written on it and asked me how to pronounce it. He got it correct on the first try. This waiter, with his quiet dignity, is always trying to improve himself. This morning another waiter saw our almost-empty water jug sitting on the table and filled it for us. This may seem rather basic, but in Haiti we learn not to expect the basics. John has said of a few of the workers, I would hire him.”

The employees here have a nice place to work. They make a wage that helps them support their families. They all look like they have enough to eat. This is why I call them lucky. Many Haitians, including some who work here, have a dream, and that dream is to get to the United States. For a poor Haitian, this is not a very realistic dream, equivalent to an American’s dream of winning the lottery. And even those of us who are largely satisfied with our lives and have endless options, seem to want more: more money, more happiness, more love, more things. More. More. More. I watch the way the man in the picture cleans our room, with almost a Zen-like involvement in the process and attention to detail and I think: For those of us with enough to eat, this man teaches us a lesson, to live our days well, wherever we find ourselves, and to give our best to others.


Anonymous said...

9 of us will be going to Missionaries of Charity Hospital
(31 Delmas) on Nov. 10th-17th. This is our 8th trip there and your postings bring back heart breaking memories of babies under white sheets & mothers screaming for their dead children. Please keep writing and sharing your experiences in Haiti--Americans (and the world) need to know the poverty these people live in while we live in a life of utter excess. God bless.

Maria Carroll said...

Thanks for your encouragement. I hope you have a good trip.