Home From Haiti

Transition home from Haiti has been 36 hours of extremes, loneliness, and sadness. Of all confusing and seemingly glutenous things to do less than a day upon returning, Jed and I attended a David Gray concert in Minneapolis. I’ve waited to see David Gray in concert for nearly 15 years since I first bought his White Ladder CD in 1999 and his music became my comfort in the time of many transitions – from divorce, to new love, to moving across an ocean, and to times of extreme loneliness that I had never encountered before. I would belt out his ballads of love and change from Babylon, and Please Forgive Me, Sail Away, This Year’s Love, and Silver Lining for the minutes in my car and the hours in my apartment. Alone.


I had become so dependent on him writing the lyrics to my life that when I came upon my car on rainy morning in Amsterdam in 2001 and found the windows smashed in and my CD cases mostly in tiny pieces on the street and my driver’s seat, my first thought went to White Ladder as I started searching my car to figure out what was missing. And in a strange twist of fate(or that the Dutch hate David Gray?) every single one of my CDs was either taken or broken except for David Gray.


And more hope than I’ve ever had settled into my heart that day and I didn’t feel alone anymore because his words still comforted me as they always did and made me want to raise my face to the sun and feel the warmth of each new day.


And so we sat last night at the concert. Paying two months salary of an average Haitian for what would be two hours of entertainment for a typical middle class American. This night I looked forward to for months overshadowed by guilt and excess. And the first half of the concert was hard. And I almost found myself dozing during some of David’s most melancholy choruses. But it was during this moments of drifting off that snapshots of Haiti would go through my mind like I was watching a slideshow with David Gray providing the soundtrack to the show. Snap – the ripped red skirt of the little girl I saw on the fist day as she ran with a naked baby in her arms. Snap – the sound and shine of the metal plates at the clinic where we fed the children lunch. Clang Clang Clang. Snap – the little boy urinating into a water bottle that his mother held in the large hospital room shared by 100 patients or more. Snap – the old woman giving the children almonds on the streets of Cite Soliel as they helped their parents collect water. Snap – the sickly and thin goats eating garbage along the road. Snap –  the old man living in a house no bigger than our bathroom at home. Snap – the girls cheering for the boys playing soccer. Snap – the gecko in our cold water shower. Snap – the smiles of all of the children. Snap – the boy in the orphanage who told me he could never let go of me.


So many pictures and people that will forever be a part of my heart. I watched this slideshow play out between opening my eyes to watch the joy of the crowd at a concert in Minneapolis and closing them to let each person I touched in Haiti know that I would never forget them. And that I would be back. And then I looked down at my hands in the darkened theater and saw my wrist glowing. The only light in the theater besides the stage. The bracelet the neighborhood boys made for me was made of glow-in-the-dark thread completely unbeknownst to me. There it was, a loud “HAITI” shouting to be seen and heard right in front of me the whole time. Parallel stories playing out not by coincidence. And I whispered to Jed “Do you see it? Do you see IT?” As he grabbed my wrist to touch the light.


And then I knew that we can’t feel guilt for some of the normal we have. But we can all do better to do more and pull our inspiration and comfort from wherever we find it. And if that means I rely on a little musical miracle of grace from David Gray to open my heart even wider to the world, then I’ll spend those hours at his concert in grateful reflection of how much work is yet to be done.


This land belongs to the gulls
And the gulls to their cry
And their cry to the wind

And the wind belongs to no-one
The wind belongs to no-one

I gave my breath to the song
To the song, wasn’t mine
Neither of ship nor of sea
Neither of glass nor of wine

Leaving this ghost of a road
I’m climbing hand over hand
Toward that pinprick of light

Toward the seed that God sowed

-Gulls, by David Gray



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