Is it Really Good Enough?

Yesterday my friend Sarah Bessey shared a link to a guest post by Tara Livesay over at D.L. Mayfield’s blog. In the post Tara Livesay talks about her life in Haiti and her concern about visitors who come for mission trips.

Tara laments the tendency of visitors to view themselves as the heroes and to look at the people of Haiti as “projects.” She writes about the air of superiority and even the disdain with which some visitors view the people of Haiti.

Tara says,

It is not at all unusual to hear visitors botch something up they are working on and say, “Oh well, it is good enough for Haiti.”

That post hit me right between the eyes, because I was one of those visitors. When I was 17 years old (over half my lifetime ago), I went on a week-long mission trip to Haiti.

I know I went there thinking I was going to be a hero. The real truth of that trip is that the people of Haiti made more of an impact on me than I did on them.

When it came down to it, I avoided the hardest work projects because they were too hard. Even when I did help out with doable things, I remember just feeling hot all the time.

My half-baked efforts were far from “good enough for Haiti.” The “project” was too much for me. I failed it.

The only good I did in Haiti was when I joined in their singing. I was terrible at it because I was unsure of the words, their meaning and their pronunciation.

20130405-160409.jpgWhen we gathered with Hatian churches or Haitian school children, there was so much singing. Their singing was so joyful, so exuberant. They knew the words even if I didn’t.

I eeked out the words the best I could manage. And the best thing about singing with them was that it was with them. It wasn’t something I did for them because I was better. It was something we did together.

I still remember some of those songs and I still sing them from time to time. It is part of the lasting impact that the people of Haiti have had on me.

Still, I think part of me has carried a sense of failure that I didn’t make the impact on Haiti that I intended.

My son was in public school when Haiti had been devastated by the earthquake. So I dusted off my photo album from Haiti, made a slide show and spoke to my son’s class. I wanted to do something helpful, to Raise Awareness.

Now though, after reading Tara Livesay’s post I wonder if my little talk only perpetuated the “we as heroes” narrative. Did I use that opportunity to make up for my failure at the “project” earlier in my life?

I started writing this post last night before I went to bed and I have been mulling it over all day. I want to be able to wrap it up in some meaningful conclusion. I can’t seem to do it though because Tara’s post has left me with more questions than answers.

Could it be that is a good thing?

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ramona on April 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Love this! I’m in the middle of reading When Helping Hurts. It really goes into detail about how we need to let go of our savior complexes and embrace our mutual brokenness. I highly recommend it! Ann Voskamp had a great post not too long ago about going to Haiti. Also, Pam, a pw and friend of mine in Wisconsin, recently posted some great thoughts: http://pamelaaugust.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/mopping-dirt-a-call-for-perspective-change/

  2. Posted by Angela on April 5, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for being so vulnerable.

  3. Posted by Cat on April 21, 2013 at 12:48 am

    I was once told a story of the painting wall. There is a South American mission project location where many church groups send eager servants. What is most needed is listening ears- to sit back, drink tea, and listen and share. But everybody wants to DO something. So if a group is particularly eager, the coordinators say, “Well, that wall needs to be painted.” It has been murals, patterns and colors… everything. They are fulfilled.

Comments are closed.