In June of 2003, my wife and I got on a plane in Miami bound for Port Au Prince, Haiti.
We forgot to pack our comfort zone. Left that back in Michigan.
Our intention at that point was to spend a week volunteering at an orphanage and eventually adopt from them.
I had never been in a third world country before.
I’m sure if I could come up with a list of the “firsts” from that week, it would be a very long list. Maybe some day I will write a book about that week and what it did to me.
But what I saw and what I heard and what I (insert all of the other senses here) made my heart hurt. Not my physical heart, but my emotional heart.
Our first full day there, I spent three hours helping the orphanage director’s husband rewire a Chevy Blazer that was donated by the US Military in 1994 when they left Haiti the last time. If we had been in the US, a 15 minute trip to an auto parts store would have solved the problem and then maybe 30 minutes to install the part. But the closest auto parts store was an hour and a half away and there was no guarantee, actually a pretty high probability, that they wouldn’t have the part that was needed.
If I had to narrow it down to the top three things that changed me, I’d say that our first trip to Haiti had three major impacts on my life:
• It stunned me that there was such poverty and struggle this close to middle class America and that most of the middle class in the United States didn’t even know that Haiti was less than a 2 hour flight from Miami.
• It bothered me that people in the United States didn’t seem to be bothered by the struggles of one of our neighboring countries.
• Holding a 20 month old baby who weighed 12 lbs (and I thought she was maybe 6 months old) made me realize how many children in our world struggle – many times struggle for their very lives. I was no longer comfortable with not doing anything about that.
That week in 2003 changed my life. I’ve often said, “If you can go to Haiti and spend a week (or at least more than 4 hours) and not come back a changed person, then I feel sorry for you.”
Comfort zone – many people in Haiti don’t know the term.
Comfort zone – many people in Haiti would LOVE to live there – but they can’t.
They can’t, because living in the comfort zone requires an education – (read the next post about that.)
They can’t because living in the comfort zone requires a job – and the last I heard, unemployment in Haiti was well over 60%.
They can’t because living in the comfort zone requires a certain amount of material wealth.
And they don’t have it. They might want it, but corruption, poverty, malnutrition and many other things keep them away from the comfort zone.
We’re going to be talking a good bit in the future about the things that keep people out of the comfort zone and what those of us in the comfort zone should think and do about it.
And also what being the ones in the comfort zone means to us.
But stay tuned, I’ve got a story to tell you about 200 high schoolers – coming up soon……