It is easy to forget a place you have never been to. But when your skin, your eyes, your ears, your feet, and your tongue, make contact, it becomes a part of you forever.
I remember the gorgeous faces of northeastern Brazil like it was yesterday. I also remember walking the dusty road all alone in Macao.I remember a pick up soccer game with kids in Baja. I remember playing a conga drum in a steep hillside park in Hong Kong. I remember dancing with my wife at a locals-only bashment in Jamaica. I remember being scared to death of the traffic in Cairo, but even more entranced by the sound of Arabic coming from the muezzin. I remember the expressions on the faces of Palestinian kids who lived in poverty a few blocks away from a brand new San Diego style mall. I remember getting hopelessly lost with my buddy in a birch forest in Siberia. And now I carry memories of Haiti. But, travel alone, is not the goal. There is also the duty of understanding a place and a people more fully.
I desire to learn firsthand because I have discovered the gaping chasm between what is portrayed and what is real. The most evident example of this is the news. If I believed what I see on the news, I would make many assumptions about Haiti and about Haitians. But, just as our history books in my education were filled with fiction, so the news is filled with sensationalism and half truths. They are not encyclopedia companies, they sell ad space. And so if our only source of information about a place is from the news, we will make judgments on the people based on the incomplete story.
I will be speaking quite a bit with kids about my book, Hope for Haiti, and about Haiti itself. What a poor job I would do if I did not go and find out for myself. And so that is what I did. I investigated. I made contact. And, I asked Haitian kids questions I knew American kids would ask. I listened to the questions the Haitian kids were asking about the American kids. I feel like I am able, now, to begin to facilitate a dialogue between these two groups of kids who are more similar than they are different.
Many American kids really want to help the kids in Haiti. They have learned about the earthquake in school and have participated in various fund raisers. But we should take care to realize it is not a one way road. We can learn from Haitian kids and they can learn from us. Who knows what future can come from two groups of kids who are aware of each other, who know the other cares for them, and who can honestly dialogue together like grown ups. (Oh, I mean, like grown ups are supposed to dialogue.)
If you are interested in bringing me to your school, library, youth program, juvenile detention center, or church, please feel free to visit my website or email me. I would love to share this book and this movement with you.