More Than Meets The Eye

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gd-4.jpgIt would have been hard to see what was really going on that day. It didn’t look like much more than a group of people standing around a kid with a bleeding nose, wondering if he was going to be ok, and then slowly turning around and going back to work. Only he wasn’t really ok, it wasn’t a regular group of people, and we were all standing beside huge mounds of garbage overheating in the Caribbean sun. Not really a typical scene after all.His name is Ganasse. He is 10 years old. He lives in a quiet little village that I have many friends in. His dad died when he was only a baby. He has an older brother that works out of town and his mom is “in the hospital” two hours away. He is Haitian and he is without any proper identification papers. He works in a garbage dump and he is as tough as nails. I don’t really think his mom is in the hospital – I think she is never coming back to him. She has been “in the hospital” since I have known him and I think no one in the village has the heart to tell him she isn’t coming home. In all reality, Ganasse is a stateless orphan, and his future is largely determined for him at this point in time.One of the Hero Holiday students with me that day at the garbage dump brought me over to see him when they found him sitting to the side. He was trying to make his nose stop bleeding. Sitting down beside Ganasse with a pile of tissue and wipes, I tried to help him understand how to stop the bleeding. With one hand I held his tiny, dirty hand and with the other I wiped his tears that were streaming down his face. Liquid brown eyes searched mine and I could see the fear in them. He wasn’t just a kid with a bleeding nose. He was young boy who didn’t know what tomorrow would hold. He was a child without a mother or father and this garbage dump was almost all that he knew of life. He had spent most of his life being on the outside and looking in: wondering what it was to have a family, dreaming of what he would someday like to be and having to figure out how to survive I held his hand, he leaned his head against my shoulder, never saying a word. I didn’t move. I didn’t want to. Finally, I raised my arm around his shoulder and hugged him close. He snuggled in and didn’t move for a moment, soaking in the human contact. This was something I had failed to realize: the power of human touch to heal the heart. When was the last time he had been hugged? Did he have any memories of human tenderness and touch? Did he crave being noticed? Had he ever felt he was someone worth holding on to?His nose had stopped bleeding, and he had stopped crying, but my heart was broken. Sitting on the side, watching everyone around us working, I saw life from his perspective for a moment: adults rushing to find food and supplies to provide for their own hungry families, loud dump trucks roaring past us, flies buzzing frantically around the heated refuse, two lone palm trees with leaves barely moving in the near stagnant air, and the anxious faces of Canadian teenagers who were continually looking back and checking to see if we were all right. I realized how high the mounds of garbage looked from this angle and how focused and determined each of the adult workers were to find what they were looking for. This was no place for anyone to have to work in, let alone a ten year old boy. Like each of these workers that I saw in front of me, Ganasse deserves more. He deserves a me, the Canadian students with me that day learned many life lessons. Some of us are probably still processing those lessons even now. But that tender moment with Ganasse left us with something more than questions and frustrations: it deposited a resolve in each of our hearts. The resolve to continue to be a voice, the resolve to recognize the power of each of our lives and choices, and most of all, the ability to see how we can make a difference one life at a time. Today, there is a school in Ganasse’s village that we helped to expand to include more kids such as himself. Ganasse is in a home with a family and he is being taken care of. And today, like the Canadians that joined me in that garbage dump, I am determined to work harder than ever to make the world a little less scary for the Ganasse’s out there.You can join us on a Hero Holiday in Dominican Republic in July of 2010! To find out more, check out obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life. ~ Elie Wiesel

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 29th, 2009