By Hal Eisenberg
February 20, 2014
I awoke this morning with some apprehension and anxiety about today’s events. I go to sleep tonight a changed man, astounded by what a difference one day can make in someone’s life. Today is one of those quintessential days that you will sit back and reflect on, realizing you are not in control, but it all of a sudden makes sense. It is in that thought and realization alone that fills my existence with validity, confirmation, and purpose.
I awoke to the sound of the sea and the village wide alarm clock, which is a 5 am ringing of “whom the bell tolls” across the town. They too believe in hitting the snooze button because about 20 minutes later the bell rings again, leaving me with the thought “What is going on? I didn’t expect this!” With no lights on and no sunrise yet I began to hear the swarming of people outside getting ready for 6 am mass and the day that awaits them. I believe there is a mass every morning here. Still feeling slightly homesick, I knew I had to clear my mind for the work ahead of me and for one of the main reasons I came to Haiti – to run our empowerment and leadership workshops. My goal, and the request from the school principal I spoke with yesterday, was to instill hope in youth who live in complete poverty. She wants me to reach these young minds that have almost nothing, who are thankful if they receive one meal a day, and show them that they can have dreams too. It was up to me to inspire these youth. My job was to show them the world does not begin and end tucked away in this remote mountainside they call in Les Abricots. That is a pretty tall order when my realization at the moment was how difficult it was to travel here with the horrible roads, as well as the comprehension and acceptance at this point that we do not even know if we can get out of here. Of course the principal was metaphorically speaking, but I could not help but think this was going to be a difficult message to express when I was feeling pretty stuck myself. I was scared and needed to clear my head. I was worried about the cultural barriers and I knew deep inside this was a big test for my global vision. This was the moment I knew would make or break my true Love In Action vision, and I was starting to feel the pressure build inside of me.
I spent the morning meditating and trying to put my head in the right place. I asked and prayed for light. I asked for a sign. I am so happy when my prayers are answered so strangely, yet in a way that is undeniable.
We had to eat breakfast quickly so we can go to the school Paradis Des Indianes in time. We were told that they had a magnificent ceremony outside the flagpole every morning and we did not want to miss it. We scoffed down breakfast and for a moment I wish I could stay at the table because I literally had the best eggs I ever had. So fresh and moist, I just wanted to eat more, but we did not have time. It was a long bumpy drive to the school that we had to go around the side of the mountain in order to get there, in which I would learn later, was just a short hike up a steep hill, which would have made more sense to take. When we finally arrived to the school (the Father drove us and stopped several times to say good morning to people walking on the roads), I was not sure where we were going. I kind of just followed Patricia and the Father, knowing they had obviously been here before. The conversation I had in my head was a struggle about my feelings of being homesick, and who I was as a presenter in Haiti. I was praying for that inner light. As we walked down the path and made a left hand turn, I was not sure if we were walking into the school or not. I would soon realize that we were walking into the principal’s home. That left hand turn was the hand of the universe sending me the first of many messages and realizations today… It is a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life and I am not sure words can capture it all…
As I stepped into the house, and glanced across the room and took everything in, I literally laid eyes on paradise. The view that met my eyes was exquisite, unreal, and shook the ground I stood on. What I saw was pure beauty that filled my heart in a way that made all my doubts go away, placed a smile in my heart, and said to me “everything is going to be okay.”
We literally walked into nirvana, a stark contrast to the world around us. Leave it to us New Yorkers to search a poverty stricken country and find the nicest house with the most breathtaking views. We met the interns at the school who were quite gracious and welcoming. I found it interesting that this school literally in the middle of nowhere, had interns from other parts of the world who I would discover later keep coming back to this school to work. This tells me something already about the character and allure of where I am, and it leads to me to already have the feeling that I do not want to leave. Hmm… the middle of “nowhere”, yet I felt like I was finally “now here.” Wasn’t I homesick just 5 minutes ago? Well, it only gets better.
It was time to do the workshops. I presented to over 80 kids in a classroom that has never done group work. We presented for almost 3 hours, with Patricia interpreting and joining in on the presentation. It was apparent to me that Patricia was enjoying the workshop, as were the youth. The interns and teachers were watching as well, and I could see them absorbing our message and challenge to open their souls. I was on point, and doing my thing. It was tough with the language barrier, and it interrupted my normal flow somewhat on how I process with groups, but it still worked. The Principal, Mica, stated that she was very impressed and she was taking notes herself. She said the kids here do not think for themselves and do not have hope. They are always told what to do and think. I thought to myself how this does not sound too far off from the youth in America, and wondered if silencing our youth’s potential was a global pandemic. The youth had never seen or experienced anything like Windows of Opportunity, and the principal felt they needed more of this. We only scratched the surface of what we do, and we were immediately invited back. She has 13 schools zspread out across the mountain servicing 3500 youth, and would like me to present at all the schools. I was asked to go to one school where there are 150 students who have no shoes at all. I want to do this and go back on a fairly regular basis. Finally, I could feel the universe put this Haiti puzzle piece into perspective. It felt so good to present here and I was in complete alignment with the passion the staff has here. I cannot really put this feeling into words, but in the moment that you experience something, you do not need to speak the same language — you can just be in that moment and know the truth. Truth transcends words. It can be felt. It is more than powerful. You know it’s a story – the universe’s story, and you are one of the characters. You see it unfolding and you feel blessed that you are a part of this moment of your life. That is what I felt today. That is what I felt while presenting. This is what I felt sharing with Mica and her interns and her teachers. This is what I felt while filming. The universe gave me my sign loud and clear – telling me that I must come back here and set up Love in Action formally – and that I must continue to go global. You never know what is around the next turn on this path we call life. I know my next step is to find business partners that want to sponsor this educational initiative. The only cost will be the travel, about $700 per trip to impact 3500 youth. No other expenses. Who would not want to sponsor that? Maybe I can create some sort of advertising and office plaque if I can find companies to send me here twice a year. I am just talking randomly here, but if you were in my shoes, and experienced what I did, this would all make sense to you.
The rest of the day we filmed in the hot sun, with the breathtaking scenery backdrop. I think Kishner and I were having the time of our lives shooting this scenery, knowing we were getting an incredible opportunity to be here. We interviewed an intern named Marie from Paris who was also a filmmaker. She has done some great work that she shared with Kishner and myself, and was there studying for her Doctorate in Anthropology. When we shared with her our story of how we may be stuck in Les Abricots, she mentioned 2 scientists who were studying there that were driving tomorrow half way to the capital. She suggested we catch a ride with them, and we all of a sudden knew we were saved! Kishner called his brother who would come meet us at the half way point and get us back to the capital. We were going to by pass the issue of Jeremie, and go straight to our Delta flight. We had a plan to get home, and the day seem to just keep filling up with miracles! The principal Mica shared her story on camera next. She was so awe-inspiring. She shared about how she started these schools in the mountain when she discovered these kids had no education at all. She is 77 years old and built 13 schools! That is beyond phenomenal! After meeting her there is not a single person at any age that can tell me that something is impossible. She was such a great storyteller that we ended up filming over an hour of her sharing so much! We can do a film on her alone!
It was so hot and humid, we were exhausted, and we were dripping sweat. The thought of New York snow was long forgotten. Despite the extreme weather here, my mood was at an all time high. It is amazing to me how much 24 hours can make a difference in your life. I felt my passion ignited. There was no power all day, and my cell phone battery had died. As the sunset, Kishner and I descended down the hill on foot, and I could not get the day off my mind. I kept running the events of the day over and over again. As we got to the bottom of the hill, the trail let us out on the beach of the Caribbean Sea. It was getting dark, but we knew what we had to do. We stopped and got Patricia, and walked back to the beach. We knew we deserved 5 minutes of fun to wash down this sweat and we dove into the Caribbean Sea for a 5-minute night swim. It was exhilarating being in this beautiful ocean staring up at the starry sky. Life all of a sudden seems to make sense. The possibilities and opportunities were endless. The last 6 months were worth today alone. I feel completely blessed.
Haiti has this allure that is undeniable. The roads are rough and the people are poor but I beg to question “what is poverty” if you have such a deep sense of inner happiness and will even walk 2 miles up hills and mountains to get to your school. I wondered which of these youth were walking back the 2 hours thinking to themselves what kind of leaders they could be. Were they for the first time ever thinking about their own dreams? As I finally lay my head down from this long day, with the quiet sea echoing throughout my thoughts, I run through the miracles of today yet again. I stand in the power of these moments and realize my fear to be so sure and confident of something. If you asked me yesterday if I would come back to Haiti, I would have said yes but with some apprehension and better planning. Today, however, it is not only a resounding yes, but I would love to be back here for April, and to do staff development in October. I would love to help these youth become leaders the right way and empower their souls to be love in action for their dear Haiti. It is as clear as day now, it is only the beginning for us. Thank you universe.