By Hal Eisenberg
February 18, 2014
Last night after dinner we had our usual “reflection” with Joe, Patricia, and the team – moments I am beginning to truly look forward to. This conversation in particular was a very detailed and informative discussion on the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, how it functions, as well as its own particular leadership challenges. It was explained quite graciously by Joe and in a way that helped me to truly comprehend the church. (Almost like my own personal version of The Catholic Church for Dummies – which I so needed) This morning I was very grateful that Joe shared with us in such a way because it created the impact and importance of what was happening around me. Today the Bishop Emeritus visited us, which is a big deal because “technically” he is a step down from The Pope. Theoretically, especially since a recent Cardinal was appointed from Haiti, this man could be eligible to be the next Pope. I mean, it is much more complicated than that, but the point being is this was an extremely important figure head that made the trip to meet us because of the work we were doing in Haiti. He made his way up the rough roads to bless the completed roof and hold a special mass in our honor. As he arrived I could feel the excitement in the air shift, and the village became transformed with anticipation.
The church was packed for our celebration and with mostly kids from the local schools. There was singing and dancing at the service in honor of the Bishop and the new building, and the mass was interpreted into English for us. The Father stated that from this point on he was an official member of Windows of Opportunity and From Here To Haiti. He praised our work, thanked us, and I will admit I had tears in my eyes. I was completely overjoyed with the gratitude and could not help but feel the difference we all made deep in my soul. Following the mass, the Bishop granted us an interview and sat with us during lunch. We spoke of leadership and he shared with me some of his experiences, as well as exchanged ideas about programs for Windows of Opportunity to do in Haiti. I don’t know if I would have fully felt the impact of this particular conversation or moment if it had not been for Joe last night. I speak to so many people about leadership and ideas often, but to be sitting here with this important religious figurehead, and be present to what was actually being said, was beyond sanctifying. He has the power to make real change and shift systems, and was willing to not only have that conversation with me, but support Windows of Opportunity in moving forward with our vision in Haiti. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how important your position is, but when you get down to it, and people truly understand what Windows of Opportunity’s mission is, they get what we are trying to accomplish. I think people realize in all walks of life – with all religions – in all countries – with all ages – we need a sense of who we are, the ability to find that, grow from it, and be empowered to put that into our world. Whether it is with our own personal life, our family, or community service locally and globally, we want our planet to be a better place to live. I think we are all under this misconception that life has to be a certain way because we cannot help it, and it frustrates me the messages we often get from society. I think innately we know there is more. We need to start building the tools to search for that inner light, whether it is through our curriculums or programs. In speaking to the Bishop I was taken in by how important and respected he was, but as we shared this conversation I saw beyond that into his words and heart. I saw just a man behind the prestigious position that simply wanted to make a difference and provide youth with faith to overcome whatever obstacles were in their way. It was common ground but we were from different walks of life. Somehow this resonated with me deeply. I am not Catholic but there is a mutual respect for cultures and spirituality this week. I respect whom I was speaking to and the conversation we were having. We were thinking outside the box, and that is what our world needs. Our exchange empowered me to want to speak to more leaders around the globe, but one step at a time.
The rest of the day was an exhausting whirlwind of playing games with all the local kids and filming interviews for the documentary, but not without a dark cloud of another hurdle closing in. The remainder of the day was sidelined with some unfortunate and challenging travel news. The travel issues have been ongoing since before this trip even started, and continued when we arrived. Hindsight is 20/20 but certain decisions have to be carefully planned out back in the states when coming to Haiti, and even then things may go wrong, as we found out today. We are basically stuck here for the time being. There is no car, and the flight on Saturday we had booked from Jeremie back to Port Au Prince, for some reason has us on standby. We did not see that when the tickets were ordered, and part of the reason this happened is because we booked our flights late. With the country wide festival Canaval gearing up, and Tortug ‘Air charging us double for tickets and messing up our flight information, it looks like there is no way we are going to get onto that flight. They are saying we may not get out until Monday, and this may not happen either. As we searched and discussed some possible solutions, there is an opportunity for us to leave Haiti tomorrow, but I am committed to finishing this trip, especially after all the fundraising we went through. Something tells me I must press on despite this stress, as you never know what is around the next bend. Most of our team have commitments back in the states and cannot afford to risk being stuck here Saturday, so it looks like our staff will diminish the 2nd half of this trip. It appears that it will be down to Patricia, Kishner and myself. In my mind, I joke that I will feel like the 3rd wheel, as Patricia and Kishner are both from Haiti, but even with the internal joking, I believe this triggers the start of feeling somewhat homesick. I of course must keep this to myself, as this is a professional venture and we have a mission. In my heart this comes first and I must push my unexpected sadness aside. This trip has been challenging every step of the way, but this team has been phenomenal and is truly trying to go with the flow, despite the fact that they must feel exhausted from having all these obstacles thrown at them. They are stepping up, absorbing all the beauty and blessings of these challenges. There is a positive resolve in all of us, but this particular challenge today was definitely a tough one not to focus on and let consume us a bit. We really needed a solution, and I felt a little beat up for the team as I could see clearly that Windows of Opportunity did not do the best planning to avoid this. I was sad that this realization was impacting the team. I keep saying this but I truly learned so much from the past 6 months and to take on global programs, you need a very meticulous, thorough approach. We were driven and passionate with the best of intentions, but we left some holes in our approach. Thank God we have Patricia and her organization here, or we would be at a total loss.
There is a current battle in my mind as I am excited in wanting to do more in the coming week but as I lay here my focus seems to be pulled towards my negative thoughts. I am feeling alone and the homesick builds inside of me. I am thinking about the kids today who only have one meal a day, but our hosts are making sure we have 3. I am thinking about how at that one meal, the children only eat a little, and then they put the rest in a bag to take home to their families who have not eaten at all. I am thinking of this teen boy Edan, who does not have shoes, is approximately 14 years old, but shows up to be our assistant on all the film projects. He is so shy but just wants to help out – and feel a sense of belonging with our team. He didn’t say this, but I can see it in his body language and efforts. You do not need to speak the same language to feel somebody’s passion and drive to want to make a difference. He has so much leadership potential and I know I will never forget him. I am sitting here thinking about how I can be a much better leader myself – how I get lost sometimes, what it takes to refocus, and what I need to do in order to ground me in my vision. I am glad I am here in Haiti and I am thankful that the universe has provided me with this beautiful experience to make sure I learn a valuable lesson about personal and professional relationships, as well as some tough introspection about who I am. All these blessings I embrace but as my eyes grow heavy on this hilly mountaintop, I sense the distance between here and home, feel alone, homesick, and a bit somber. Everyone has dealt with this stress and are in their own space trying to cope, so it is best to keep to myself for the time being. Tomorrow is a huge travel day and will change the emotions of this entire trip. Let’s see what gifts the universe has in store for us tomorrow. Good night.