Tuesday, February 19

Benny Swallowed a Toenail

"When you speak a person's language, you speak to their heart," a wise man once told me. A few of us on the trip have been trying to throw around a few French and Creole phrases in order to get around a bit better.

Humorously, a gentlemen who runs the show at the guest house here mentioned to me that in Creole, what sounds like "Benny swallowed a toenail" is "Blessed be The Lord" You just need to use a French accent for that ridiculous English phrase to turn into a soulful Haitian profession.

If you say what sounds like "Now we Pita!" in a French accent then you are saying "See you later!"

Even if it means relying on these unusual mnemonics, a lot of Haitians really appreciate hearing us use our meager vocabulary in French and Creole to express a few ideas.

No matter what the actual words we are using mean, when we boldly stumble through those languages the idea we express most prominently is something like this - "Thank you for having us as guests in your culture." In most countries around the world a few broken words from a foreigner almost always is understood as a thank you and a show of appreciation and respect for the local culture.

Little did I know that today, in Haiti, at a tiny isolated orphanage my heart would be warmed not once but twice by the most unlikely of people speaking to me in my native language.

One is named Linda and the other David. Each with their own handicaps that create limits in their lives, these two so prominently had converstaions with me in English today.

Communicating with me in English today were joyful, Haitian orphans with disabilities so profound that they will likely spend their entire lives in an institution.

How am I using the gifts God has given me? If an orphaned adolescent with significant developmental disabilities can spend her entire day with a wide grin on her face as she communicates with visitors effectively in her third language - English - then I can certainly step up my game a bit and learn a few Creole and French phrases to extend to my hosts.

"When you speak a person's language, you speak to their heart." Linda and David spoke to my heart today and without them knowing it they issued me that challenge to be better, to up my game, to use the gifts God has given me.

Three days into this trip, I'm learning lessons that I would never have dreamed from people who I didn't expect to hear them from.


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