Joy is likely to be a theme of this trip for me and at least for a few others.
Our first day we heard 120 kindergartners sing to us:
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart...
There was joy in that song. Their principal clapped along. Their teachers clapped along. We, their visitors, clapped along as they assembled to start their week of school.
Step it up a notch and you have a different environment all the more joyous.
At first sight, any orphanage may seem like a dreary place. Any place where children with disabilities gather is likely to be a dreary place.
Some of my fellow visitors on the trip had long faces as they went to the orphanage the first time. They clearly felt terrible looking at all these orphaned handicapped children stuck in one place. It's a very difficult sight.
I too may have worn a long face. After visiting the orphanage for 20 minutes, I vowed to myself not to return to that orphanage. It felt like a hopeless place.
That night during our bible study that decision changed. Going to the orphanage was presented to me, lovingly, as something that would make me stronger. The next morning my perception of that orphanage would change.
D.H. Lawrence wrote in his poem "Self-Pity"
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
Humans uniquely tend to feel self-pity. The children at Little Children of Jesus do not seem to exhibit any such sense of self-pity about their station in life. I initially looked at them and felt pity, which is what made that orphanage such a terrible place for me.
By the time my first morning at that orphanage had come to an end, that sense of pity I felt for those children had disappeared.
They felt no pity for themselves - quite to the contrary, they often felt a very strong sense of joy. So why should I feel pity for them when joy is what they feel for themselves. Why not just leave the mental pity party I was at and go across the street to the rocking party where everyone is smiling?
I did that and that orphanage was a different place immediately.
Tonight we're reading the following at our bible study:
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Tomorrow, I'm going back to the orphanage with some of my long faced co-travelers. Something tells me they will experience a change of heart much like mine where a sense of pity and sadness around these profoundly handicapped orphans will turn to joy and love.
Joy is the theme of this trip. Joy is the thesis. Every night before we go to bed, we share the bitter and the sweet of the day. Without the bitter, the sweet never feels so sweet. Even when life is very bitter it tends to have much sweet as long as you look around for the sweet. I thought I was the ultimate optimist able to spot the joy in any situation. A group of Haitian orphans are teaching me there's a lot of joy to life that I'm pretty casually overlooking.