Digging for Hope
One of the things that we do with the Hero Holiday in Dominican Republic is to go to a dump. Christal has been leading the teams that go out there, bringing food and clean water to the Haitian refugees who work there.
The refugees sort through the garbage for plastic bottles, collect them in bags that are weighed and they are paid per bag. They also separate the food, put it in a different bag and take it home for a sort of nourishment. With all their hard work in these deplorable conditions, they make about $1 a day.
My first response was disgust. Not at the people or their lives, but with myself and western culture. We consume so much and generate so much waste…and these people sort through it, looking for income, for food…really, looking for hope. Looking through my garbage, looking for hope. All I wanted to do was to get a bag and start digging myself; I wanted to do something immediately that changed their situation. Not that the $1 a day I would earn could change the conditions of their lives.
I can’t do their work for them. I don’t think they would want me to. It is not work that any person would want to do except for survival. I can’t say to them the empty words that everything will be alright. How do you give encouragement or comfort to someone in that situation? I can’t tell them to work a little harder and their luck will change. It is unimaginable that they will be able to change their lives. I don’t know if they earn enough to feed their families; I know they can’t nourish them. They earn $1/day. And the school in their village costs $16/month ($500 Dominican pesos) for each child. Why would I talk to them about the importance of education? They already know that, but they can’t afford that important part of life.
But I can give them respect and accept them unconditionally where they are…which leads to us being able to do so much more with them. Not for them, but with them, empowering them as opposed to enabling them. Tell me, what keeps them going, day after day, after day? Is it hope? They came here from Haiti in hope of a better life. And they found it in a garbage dump. This life is better than life in Haiti. Whoever thought hope would be in garbage? How would I react if I was living their lives? Not with hope. Can I give them more hope? I can’t promise them anything, but I know that hope should not be found digging in a dump. I know there is something more we can do, and what is within our power and imagination, we will do. Until we can accomplish that, I think of their hope.