I originally intended on taking today off the blog but as I sat in bed this morning thinking about all the things I have to be thankful for, this scene that has burned in my mind since I first witnessed it began to play. I knew that I had to share it with you today on Thanksgiving.
During my first visit to Haiti about 6 weeks ago, our first soap distribution of the day was at a church service where approximately 8,000 Haitians gathered. In both the CBS News and Fox news story this service is where the large distributions take place.
This building is a large, stadium seating structure that has been under construction for 17 years. Large pillars stand all around the building, ready for a roof. But in the 17 years it has sat, a roof has never been built.
The service is from 10am – 1pm. This particular day, it is blistering hot, the sun beating down, and the dust from the ground floor where the people dance is being kicked up. There is a large stage where the band, choir, and oversized speakers sit.
On the stage is a song leader. She is no more than 16 years old and she leads all the songs this day. Her voice is absolutely, undeniably amazing! She can sing with amazing strength and stamina. She has an American Idol type voice.
As some of the songs played, I recognized the music but of course did not understand the words as they are in Creole. It made following along challenging as I usually need to read lyrics myself to sing along. So I mostly listened and hummed.
The music changed to another song that I knew. This time though, I knew the lyrics. And as I began to sing along in English, as the 8,000 Haitians sang with all their hearts in Creole, most lifting their hands to the heavens, singing with all the might they could, the lyrics took on so much more meaning.
Here we are in the poorest region of the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere. Think about that- poverty greater than anywhere else in South America, Mexico, other parts of Central America. Poverty far, far worse than anything we have in the United States. 75% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Filth and sewage reign supreme. Malnourishment and hunger are everywhere. Desperation and hopelessness are experienced every single minute of every single day.
It is chaotic, suffocating and depressing. It makes one trying to help feel overwhelmed and at times hopeless themselves.
Yet, with all the fervor, passion and spirit that you and I may put into singing a song that we really love to sing, or cheer for our team on Saturday or Sunday, or defend a political figure or belief that we truly stand for, or look into the eyes of a loved one like such as our own children to hug them and tell them how much we care for them, they sing. They sing looking up into the heavens. There is no roof to stop their song from leaving their desperate and hopeless situation. They sing the following:
Give thanks With a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son
Now think about these next words. Picture 8,000 of poorest and the weakest singing in unison with a beautiful voice to the heavens:
And now… let the Weak say I am Strong
Let the Poor say I am Rich
Because of what the Lord has done for Us
And with even more voice and heart, singing as loud as they can and with as much heart as they can possibly muster:
And now… let the Weak say I am Strong !
Let the Poor say I am Rich !
Because of what the Lord has done for Us
Give Thanks with a grateful heart
(Enjoy this version of the song and picture show on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sJWg7vWjQw&feature=related )
Every time I revisit the scene in my mind, my eyes well up. Here we are with the poorest and the weakest in our world, trying to help their incredible hygiene problem, witnessing the filth and sewage and poverty everywhere, yet they give thanks. They seek hope it and they find it. They long for it and then they lift their voices to the heavens to show their gratefulness.
It makes their words of gratefulness and thankfulness to Clean the World that much more special as they truly find hope in our soap. They find hope in your soap. The soap that you decided to do something different with!
Thank you for everything that you have done to make the moment I described above possible for me to experience. It made an incredible impact in my life. And so I try to share these moments with you so that you can experience them too. It is not send a specific message of religion, although many of you with feel that impact as well. But it is to help you experience the hope, the irony, feel the goose bumps, hear their voice and passion, and hopefully Give Thanks today for what we have and how we have an incredible opportunity to help others here and abroad. We have weak and poor in our very neighborhoods in towns. Look for ways to give them hope and gratefulness too!
Give Thanks for everything that we have. Happy Thanksgiving!!