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Communiqué #060


to the PEOPLE of HAITI

March 2, 2009

I admire those who are great gift-givers, especially since I never have considered myself good at doing just that. When I was a child, I had a special aunt who always knew just the right kind of gift to give to each and every one of her many nieces and nephews. She would search and search for just the right item and then take great pleasure in wrapping it in the most precise and neat fashion. That indeed is a special God-given talent! My brothers and I always looked forward to gifts from that special person in our lives! It made me want to be just like her!

In my four and a half years of living in Haiti, I have received many gifts, most of which most Americans would consider unusual gifts. I have received a stalk of plantain, a live goat, a live chicken or two, fresh-caught shrimp, crabs, colorful saltwater fish, coconuts, raw cow’s milk, homemade Haitian candy, and fruits of many varieties. One of my most recent gifts was a bunch of bananas. It was not a large bunch, but it was a ready-to-eat bunch! At first glance, one would say “Bananas? What kind of gift is that?”, but as I reflected on that gift, I realized what a special gift it really was. It was brought to me by someone who I had been able to help with some medical problems. She had traveled to her “home country” to visit family. This trip meant riding in a truck for about 90 minutes, then getting out and walking across a wide, rapidly flowing river and then climbing for about 4 hours up a mountain to her hometown. During her visit, the bananas were freshly picked and packed into her backpack. She would carry them for 4 hours down the mountain, and would keep them high above the splashing water as the river was once again crossed and then transport them with her in the back of an overcrowded pickup truck where all the passengers would stand for the final 90 minute rough ride home! NOW THAT IS SOME GIFT!

I have been given another gift in Haiti…the gift of a hobby! It surprised me to actually find a hobby in Haiti, especially because I really never had any hobbies in the USA. I live close enough to the ocean to walk there early some mornings or just before sunset on some evenings. The beach that I walk to has turned out to be a great place to find sea glass (or beach glass). As I search for shards of broken jars and bottles or bits of broken china, I fantasize about what those pieces were once a part of. Since this stretch of the Caribbean Sea is famous for its periods of pirate ships and famous pirates like Captain Morgan, I can imagine that some of my finds are rare and of historical significance. In reality, of course, most of my finds are from soda or beer bottles, but it is fun to fantasize nonetheless. On these excursions, I have had several opportunities to capture some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets on camera. I have to pinch myself knowing that on some of those days, my family and friends are shoveling out of several inches of snow!

The girls of the orphanage have been part of my hobby adventure. I take two or three of them with me when I go on my sea glass search. I keep a chart of all of the kids’ names and make sure that each of them gets a turn to walk the beach with Mommy Nora. Some still try to convince me that I never take them, but when I haul out my little list they sigh in defeat, knowing their turn will come again soon. Some of the girls are really better at finding the glass than I am. They know what kind and color of pieces that I am looking for and delight in running to show me their find! I have interested them further by going on the internet and showing them the beautiful jewelry and other items that can be made from sea glass. When I actually turned some of the glass into pendants for necklaces, they were delighted! Here is where I fantasize again about calling my collection “Caribbean Sea Glass – Orphanage Edition” and selling it for big money on the internet to benefit the orphanage. Reality or not, it has been fun having a hobby in Haiti!

Having a hobby is one small way for me to “get away from it all.” Sometimes, though, even a walk to the beach is not an escape at all. Anywhere and everywhere that I go there are people in need, many who come up to me to ask for some kind of help. It really is a breath of fresh air when someone just comes up to me to watch what I am collecting and then proceeds to help me find what I am looking forward and proudly hands it to me simply to add to my collection. No expectations! No asking for something! Just the simple act of giving! There it is again … the God-given talent of giving!

That of course brings us to the greatest gift of all – the Gift of God’s Son! Thank you God for being the best gift-giver of all!

Nora Léon

Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time ………….

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