As an ongoing physician, Lacey Smith from Los Angeles, California (USA) participated in a year-long medical fellowship in Haiti. And this restructured her world view, she says. How and why she describes in the following report.
On my last night in Haiti, I sat eyeing a spider in the corner of my room from the thatched chair I had come to call my own. While the familiar whirl of my fan and the din of the crickets filled the heavy air, I thought about the year I had spent in villages, beneath mango trees, and under a sun made of fire.
I thought about the stories I had gathered—stories of hardship and endurance and cholera and malnutrition. Stories of a place and a culture both vibrant and complex. Stories of hurricanes and palm-roofed houses, of health committees and clean water initiatives, of village birth assistants and local doctors that rose above and beyond what was asked of them by their profession.
More than compassionate resilience
I thought about these stories, and I understood that, in thirteen months, these narratives had restructured my world view. For despite a life that seemed difficult and unforgiving, the men and women that lived these narratives were stronger and more forgiving. They were kind, funny, and frustrated at times, but ultimately collaborative in a world that seemed divisive and iniquitous.
Before my fellowship, I had understood this kind of compassionate resilience in a parabolic way—as one internalises Sunday School lessons, applicable yet still analogic. During my year as a Global Health Fellow, I was handed the opportunity to witness what love of neighbour should, could, and does entail.
Part of my tomorrow
My thoughts were disrupted by a knock on my open door. “You worry too much about spiders,” my friend Kiki told me, following my gaze. I laughed and unfurrowed my brow.
“Only for one more day,” I said.
“Only until tomorrow, if God wants,” Kiki said.
In the language of Haitian Creole, one rarely says only the word “tomorrow”. The phrase in its entirety is always demen, si Dye vle or “tomorrow, God-willing”. This linguistic nuance always made me grin. It was as if, embedded in the vernacular of Haitian life, there was a spirituality that framed my experience—that reminded me that the stories I gathered from yesterday, from Haiti, are meant to be a part of my tomorrow.
Loving as God loves
It reminded me that as a future physician, community member, daughter, sister, and friend, I have every reason to love my neighbour as deeply and as unequivocally as I am loved by God. I remember feeling that this is something that I wouldn’t forget. I also remember hoping that God forgot to include spiders under the term “neighbour”.
The tomorrow after that last night, I left the clinic in Thomassique and ended my fellowship. However, my connection to this place and the people still remains.
This article was originally featured in Vision, the quarterly newsletter of the New Apostolic Church USA.