Marching in Haiti

“You are not merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

It’s funny how quickly an incredible job and unparalleled opportunity can be taken for granted.

How often do I “impoverish myself”?

Impoverished … Poverty.

Many people think of third world countries as “impoverished”.

I remember Haiti after the earthquake… I remember the image that has stayed with me ..

Hundreds of Haitian children wearing bright blue uniforms marching around the school field … Children in the community chosen to be sponsored to go to school. They marched with confidence, they had been chosen. They marched with purpose; they got to “learn”. They marched with pride; they made the cut. Unfortunately, many others were not as fortunate. Those less fortunate knew the value of being in “the group”. They too wanted to walk with confidence, purpose and pride.   As young as they were, they knew the ones with the bright blue uniforms had “the edge”.

Marching off to the side was a little boy in tattered clothes. He did not get sponsored. He was looking from the outside in, at the children with the “slight edge” in life. He was trying to get the right footing, trying to join in. He must have wondered what it would be like to have the edge, however slight.

Poverty is not always about finances.

“True poverty is an acceptance of meager possibility. It is a lack of courage and personal vision – it is being governed by the belief that you don’t have enough.” – Graham Cooke

This week, our math class rolled back to school a little sluggish. Most of us weren’t feeling the wonder of opportunity, the priviledges of Canada, learning opportunities or community. Most of us were feeling tired and disengaged.

Our feelings dictate our actions and behaviors – they matter – and we can change them!

I asked my students whether they would rather be strong physically or mentally. At first, several of them said they would prefer to be physically buff – imagining a ripped physique and intimidating muscles the world would envy. After some discussion, we surmised mental strength will propel a person further in the world and produce happiness that physical strength alone can’t generate.

So we pulled out our gratitude journals and we wrote. And we wrote. And we wrote. And the room changed and the list-toppers were shared and we felt like the high-knee marchers from Haiti. Confident, Purpose and Pride – Aliveness.

Sometimes I have felt like the boy marching on the outside of the fence – I haven’t known where to put my feet, or what decisions to make. It’s not easy to take steps when you don’t know the outcomes. However, Paul says in 1st Corinthians the best life is experienced when we Live by faith and not by sight –and we take the small steps of faith – like practicing gratitude – when we can’t instantly see the benefits or consequences of our decisions.

Life is generally not about taking leaps and bounds, but about the moments you edge forward slightly, because of a series of small decisions that lead to growth.

It’s in the small steps that strength is built, the mind is renewed, and the heart feels full. It’s out of these moments that motivation comes to engage at work, to notice blessings and to be the blessing.

Motivation comes to pick up a small blue sponsor card with a picture of a little boy in tattered clothes from Haiti standing outside a fenced area…

Maybe I needed to see his marching so I could avoid living impoverished.

Maybe His poverty and my poverty can be expelled together.

Maybe his marching tall outside the fence taught me to march tall in my life.

Maybe, just maybe, if we both continue to march tall and take slight edge steps – we really can live with the words of Woodrow Wilson: You are not merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope.


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