I’m already smiling at the thought of your confused faces and all the funny pronunciations you came up with for the title of this blog. It’s a Haitian creole term that means ‘share’. I learned that this word could be your best friend or you biggest pain. After we built a swing set for some children in Haiti, it didn’t take very long to find out that swing sets are the bomb. For most of the kids, it was the first time they had ever layed eyes on a swing set. At first they looked at it from afar, some hiding behind trees and fences. But soon enough, some brave kids were jumping all over it! They hopped up on the swings and tried to go back and forth. As you may know, there is a very specific form to swinging. You extend your legs on the forward swing, and bend your legs back on the back swing. These children didn’t know this and teaching them was a blast. After one child had been on a swing for a long period of time, I would suggest that he or she ‘pataje’ with someone else. Most of the kids would smile and hop off, allowing another to try it out. However, when the kids found out that I knew this word, they used it against me! Now I’ve got 10 kids around me pointing at the person swinging, shouting “Pataje!” I tried to explain that the person who just patajed shouldn’t have to pataje immediately upon getting on the swing set, and that pataje-ing was a two way street. The bad part was, the only word I knew was ‘pataje’, so the rest was in English. I was a babbling fool but the kids were so dang cute I didn’t mind. Anyway, the reason I’m pataje-ing this story with you is to highlight some of the lessons the Haitian people taught me.
One day we left the orphanage to go on some home visits. As we walked alongside the river, the houses looked less and less safe, the people looked more and more malnourished, and my heart grew more and more heavy and concerned. There is one event in particular I’d like to share with you. It was the first home we arrived at, filled with children and a single mother. They had no water, to electricity, no kitchen, no bathroom, and no food. They considered themselves blessed to have these 4 walls and a roof. The mother told us that they could not afford the market that week and that the kids hadn’t eaten all day, and maybe longer. One particular boy had clung to me and held my hand the whole time we were there. When it was time to go, after we had fed them, done some minor repairs, and prayed with them, I pulled a rosary out from my pocket and handed it to the boy. His eyes lit up and he put it over his head with a huge smile. As I turned to walk away, I felt a tugging at my shirt. The boy kept pulling at my shirt and pointing across the field where his brother, a few years younger than he, was playing with what looked to me like some broken pieces of wood. He dragged me across the field, continuing to point back and forth between the rosary and his little brother. It took me a second to put it together, and he remained set on making sure I did what he was asking. I pulled out my last rosary and handed it to the younger boy, who also lit up and throw the rosary over his head with a gigantic grin. Now, at last, the older brother stopped tugging at my shirt, smiled, and waved goodbye.
This boy had nothing. He had no food, no water, no clothes, no toys. This rosary was possibly the nicest gift he had ever received. What amazed me the most was that he would not be quiet, would not let me leave, would not rest until his brother was able to share in the joy and love he was experiencing. I’ve seen generosity. I’ve seen the rich give out of their wealth. However, this boy wanted to share the blessings with his family out of his poverty. He couldn’t stand to experience this blessing and NOT share it.
(Here’s the point where I ask those challenging, rhetorical questions)
Do I have an urgency to share the blessings in my life? Do I really reflect on what Jesus has done and is doing in my life, and do I respond to the call to share it with others? Living in community, do I act selfishly with my blessings, or do I run to my brothers and sisters and ask the Lord to pour out blessings on them, too?
Take some time to reflect on the story of the young boy I met. Ask for the grace to give even out of your own poverty, constantly asking and trusting that Jesus will fill you up. Don’t give people yourself, give them Jesus. If you have any cool ‘glory stories’ or ways in which you’ve learned invaluable lessons from the poor and the meek, please share them. I’d love to hear it. Be God’s.