This was, originally, an essay that I wrote for my AP Language class, but I didn't mind writing it.
Crunch, crunch, crunch. Dirt and dusted rocks crunched under my sandals as my missions team and I traveled through the rugged streets of La Gonave, Haiti. We were headed to the local orphanage to play with the children that lived there. The street we ventured on, was lined with people who stood at tables piled with fruits and vegetables of all kinds. Their white eyes sat on top of their dark skin and stared at the visible white on our arms and legs. For our white skin showed those eyes that we had wealth. A musty and unidentifiable smell permeated the air as it went into my nose. The buzzing sound of multiple people chattering in a foreign language spun in and out of my ears without any comprehension. It was hot. It was a long walk. It was different.
As our team rounded the chipped corner of a building, the tall, cement orphanage came into view. Windows blocked off by rusted bars circled the entire building. A small, sweet brown face popped up into view. The little girl put her chin on the cement and grabbed onto the bars with both hands. She beamed at our team with excitement and called her friends over to the window. Slowly more children began to realize that visitors were coming to see them, and slowly more smiling faces appeared in the prison-like windows. As we approached the door a roar of greetings met us with much enthusiasm. “Allo! Bonjou! Allo zanmi'm!” I looked up and saw that on the second floor, the kids were reaching down as far as the bars would let them so they could wave at us.
When we entered the energetic building, we were given a tour of the place by a long term missionary. First we were taken to the school room. Wooden tables and a blackboard inhabited the room. That was it. I felt pity for the children when I saw their learning environment. Next we were shown the bedrooms. My heart dropped when I saw where those sweet children slept. The bunks were five feet high. They had metal rims on them with a piece of hard moldy wood on top and on bottom. I felt a lump rising in my throat as I thought of the precious children sleeping on those wretched, moldy beds. I was broken for them. I was taken to the second floor, up the dirty and unsanitary stairs, to visit the other orphans. We were told that we could play with the kids and just love on them.
I sat down on a bench next to a little girl. Her name was hard for me to pronounce, but I did manage to find out that she was eight years old. Her dirty, baggy clothes hung off of her body and gaped open at her chest. She wore no shoes and her hair was tangled and messy. The dark wrists on her skinny arms were small enough for me to close my hand around. The lump in my throat was back again. Her pearly white smile radiated an unfamiliar happiness, to me. A few other girls with sweet brown eyes slowly trickled over to my seat. We laughed, made silly faces and played hand games together. The clapping of my white hands against their small, timid, dark ones was more special to me than any other hand game had ever been before. Even as I let them win at thumb wrestling, I could feel that I was in a moment that would be dear to me for the rest of my life.
The heat of the air seemed to disappear and so did all of the discomfort. I had completely sunk myself into being with the grieving, abandoned, lonely, sickly, beautiful girls. I stared into their faces in awe of how brave they were. They had little food, no parents, a rotting bed, and hardly any clothes, yet they were laughing and smiling with more joy than I had ever seen in my entire life. Their hearts were not sad, in appearance, but mine was. How can they be so brave? How do they not sit in sadness? How are their faces ringing with happiness? In my head I was thinking that I wanted to be like them. Most of them had witnessed horrific tragedies, but they did not let that stop them from having the most fun they can while they are children.
Too soon it was time to leave the bare and crowded orphanage. I hugged the girls on my way out of the building and I blew them all kisses as a goodbye. As my team and I marched out of the building, the children, once again, were hanging out of all the barred windows waving with excitement. This time they shouted farewells. “Ba bye! Na we pita! Mwen pase on bel tan!” I waved as we descended the dirty, dusty streets. It was very hard to leave the incredible, sweet, young people. I was astonished by every one of their positive attitudes. As we walked farther and farther away from the cement building, I could not wrap my mind around the concept of how the little girls' were choosing to move on and live out their lives with joy in everyday.