I have learned something about visitors in Haiti. This is a generality and not a rule, but it seems to hold up most of the time. Here is the principle…The younger you are and the less time you have spent in Haiti, the more you know about what will fix the country. The older you are and the more time you’ve spent in Haiti, the more you realize that you are not Haiti’s savior. I think this principle is probably true of people everywhere. I remember when I first started in ministry, I was a lot smarter than I am now (hopefully you hear the sarcasm through the computer screen). I believed that I knew the answer for every church and for every youth ministry, and the more I grew and the older I got, I realized how little I truly knew. I believe that this is the wisdom that comes from age. It has some to do with life experience, but it seems like it has a lot to do with understanding what you know and what you don’t know, and a lot to do with your ability to listen to others rather than always give advice.
I was reminded of this recently at a Bible Study led by a couple that lives close to Christianville where we are staying. This couple was very gracious and, even though we don’t know them well, they seemed very genuine. One of the things that I realized right away is that they were different than many of the people who come to Haiti. They have been here for 15 years and have served this country very well. They know the language, the culture, and have a wonderful ministry. The biggest way that they seemed different…they listened more than they spoke. They listened to what we hope to do here, they listened to others talk about their ministry, and only when they were asked did they offer their opinion. I hope to find more people like this while we are here and learn from them. You know, the type of person who truly listens to you and then shares from wisdom that they have accrued over years of doing something. Maybe one day I will have the wisdom to listen, and the longevity to share from life experience.
What is it about youth that makes us want to speak before listening? That makes us believe we know more than anyone else? That makes us think we have the answer to any question even when we have no experience with the topic?
The last thing that reminded me of my lack of wisdom is something that I was told today. I was told by a few people that, for a Haitian, a bowl of Corn Flakes is not enough for breakfast. That a Haitian needs more than an American to eat. This idea speaks to the fact that, when a Haitian finds food, he must eat as much as he can because he does not know when the next and this is their mindset. This is not something that I understand, but it is cultural. For breakfast, Haitians eat spaghetti or corn meal or even rice, but this American breakfast is not what they want or need. I kept pushing back until I realized that every Haitian I talked to said the same thing. My pride overpowered the wisdom of people who actually live here and know the culture. I pray for wisdom almost every day, but when people try to speak it into my life, sometimes it is hard for me to listen.
My point for today is this…Let’s not let the pride of youth get in the way of the wisdom that others have for us. This is something that I need to learn for myself and I hope it is something that some of you guys can learn from as well.