It is in giving
A trip to Haiti leads to a transformational experience for a young college student
In the summer of 2018, I spent two weeks in the rural northern east side of Haiti with the community of Mont-Organisé and some focolarini. The goal of this experience for me was “to give.” Not necessarily in a material or a monetary way, but giving of myself.
My role was simply to be of service, to be a listening ear, a helping hand, a friend. During my time in Haiti, I totally surrendered to the will of God and focused on living every day and every moment to the full. In return, I received much more than I could ever imagine.
Saint Francis of Assisi’s quote highlights the essence of such experience: “It is in giving that we receive.”
Upon my arrival, I witnessed the fruits of charity and generosity among people who find ways to give so generously with the little they have. Through simple and genuine actions, I realized how God’s love is present and alive anywhere and everywhere. Whether it was in offering a basket of mangoes, time, talent or a meal, I could feel the authenticity of community living and unity in such a suffering people.
I could hardly believe my eyes as I witnessed the preparations for the summer gathering, the Mariapolis. Women sacrificed their time and energy to cook meals for 400 people, for three days straight, in the heat of the summer. Volunteers cleaned chairs, set up mattresses, mopped floors, arranged transportation, made decorations, ironed curtains, prepared the program and so much more.
All was done for the glory of God. This self-giving and generous communitarian service is to me a confirmation that God manifests himself to us through a family, a people that belong one to the other.
What has stayed with me after this experience are the relationships that I have gained, especially with the children, which I carry in my heart to this day. I often did not communicate with words but through play, smiles, holding hands, bracelet making, sports and drawing.
One day, after having seen me play with the other children, a little girl started to follow me everywhere and was inquisitive about me. I spent day after day trying to be her friend, and by the end of my time in Haiti, saying goodbye broke my heart.
One time, we visited two older women living in a little room. Their simple smiles radiated joy and brought peace to my heart. Another day we visited a very sick woman; we spent time listening to her and comforting her. We could feel the hope in her eyes. It was inspiring to me to see how someone so young and yet so sick could accept this crippling sickness and be grateful for God’s love in their life without any resentment towards him.
These experiences, although simple and brief, deeply moved me. I was profoundly at peace, knowing that I can choose to give, even if very little compared to the immense needs of the poor. Giving, not for reward or pleasure, but for the sheer purpose of accomplishing God’s desire to make us a family, to make us one.
God made the impossible happen in front of me and gave me a hundred times more of what I gave. Going to Haiti and making myself available to do his will helped me to welcome God’s grace into my life.
I am convinced more and more that if we open the door to our neighbor and love him, we find Jesus there, truly present in our midst, in our world.
Dalila D’Andrea, 21, Toronto
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