I’m a little disappointed that my family will be eating turkey again this year. Yeah, I know about the sleepy-time, feel-good endorphins it releases and how it’s a 700-year-old American tradition. But this year I’ve got something else on my mind: goat.
About nine hours into what turned out to be an eleven hour, 130 mile trip last summer, we stopped in the village of Gros Morne to meet some of the people of a local church. In the few days that I had been in Haiti I had seen that many of the rumors were true, it was the poorest place I had ever seen. As we drove down their roads and looked at their buildings (I’ve seen better of both while working in war torn countries), I knew that there was much that could be done for these people. It was in this place though that I was reminded of what it means to give. As our group crowded into a back room of a half-finished church, we were served what I’d like to consider one of the tastiest meals of my life. Not only were we given what is considered expensive, we were given the best parts. I was caught in the terrible dilemma of choosing to eat more of one of the best tasting meats I’ve ever had or leaving it for the people who had prepared it for me, knowing it cost them much more than I myself would ever consider spending on a guest I had never met before, let alone family.
Some friends of mine had been telling me about the need for clean water in Haiti for several years, but as with many other missionary sob stories I had heard over the years I let it go to the back of my mind so I could ponder more “important” things. I had seen much of the world, and my experiences in almost every place told me that things were rarely as bad as the people trying to raise money made it sound. It seems I misjudged this one. On our journey we drove through many dirty streams and rivers, and they were usually filled with people cleaning, bathing, and drinking; and then there were the wading animals adding even more to its uncleanliness. It then occurred to me that the statistics about how the majority of diseases in Haiti are caused by merely taking a drink of water were true.
For the duration of the trip I had plenty of bottled water for myself. The people that gave me the expensive meal? They weren’t that lucky. Many of us “lucky” people wonder why they don’t change their ways, change the situation in which they live in. There is a simple answer: they can’t, at least not on their own. Do you know what it takes to get clean water? It takes someone drilling a well several hundred feet down. It takes expensive equipment; it takes lots of money (at least in their terms). A rural Haitian makes less than a dollar a day, they survive mostly from what they are able to grow and gather. We, on the other hand, have absolutely everything it takes to get them something that will not only quench their thirst, but will cure a majority of the disease that will constantly persist until their water situation in changed. When they are given clean water, they are literally given the gift of life.
Last week I met a Haitian man (in Oklahoma of all places!) and he invited me to share Thanksgiving with his family. He is thankful for what the Haiti Water Project is doing for his people, and I am thankful for the generosity that his people have shown me. And I’ll be just a little more so if he’s serving goat instead of turkey this year…
Jason Lipscomb is a sociology and psychology teacher in Oklahoma City where he is currently growing out a cowboy mustache. If he isn’t hunting down some goat for dinner or at school, he is probably restoring motorcycles and scooters.