If you read my post on Haiti last week (Lending Haiti a Helping Hand: Can we really make a difference?), then you’ll realize that no matter the size of the problem, it always starts with one person to find the solution. Never think you are too small to accomplish something large.
I was down in Haiti for a week in November of 2010 to help out wherever the group felt my skill set was best suited. I did some photography, helped build schools and most importantly made friendships that changed my life. Sure, my intention was to go down and help out, but I never knew that it would be the Haitians who would be helping me out.
Helping out people is something that I strongly believe it. Not only does it make me feel better putting a smile on someone’s face but I believe I owe it to help out people who aren’t as fortunate to be in a situation like mine.
Before going to Haiti, a typical day for me would go something like this: Wake up at 7:30am. Have cereal or eggs for breakfast, a hot shower and start my day around 8:30am. The work commute from my bed to my computer is sometimes pretty crazy. A couple times I tripped on my multiple video game systems and my leather lazy boy. I always answer emails first and then drive to meetings, or drive to shoots. My day ends around 5pm and then I do work for Monsters vs Me. I’m a pretty calm guy, but sometimes I can get angry with clients or get upset with huge traffic jams. How annoying is it to be in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour.
So then I spent a week in Haiti……….
Lets run down a typical day for a Haitian. They wake up at 3am to get their kids dressed and ready for school, if they can afford the tuition. They have to get up so early because in some areas in takes 3 hours for the child to walk to school. If they have a job, they are there bright and early to start work, or start looking for work that day. Their commute to work involves walking through high bushes, and dirt paths covered with jagged rocks. After working for 12 hours, they may take home a couple dollars. So its back home to feed the family and do it all over the next day.
So which life is better? You would say mine, right? But how is it, that no matter what, the Haitian’s day always ends with a smile, and sometimes mine didn’t.
I get to choose what I want for breakfast, I get to have a hot shower every day, I get to have materialistic items such as video games and leather furniture, I get to work from home, I have a car to be in that bumper to bumper traffic, and yet its the Haitian who has absolutely nothing who is happier than me.
One of the greatest things that I learned from the people in Haiti, is that there’s only one thing you need in life: Happiness. I’ve never seen a more appreciative culture. The don’t have a lot, but are happy for the little they do have. It allows them to be alive and spend the time with friends and family. A couple days after I returned from Haiti, I had to drive into Toronto for business. I was stuck in crazy traffic for about an hour. Rather than curse and complain, I recalled a week ago how I was riding on suitcases in the back of a truck and trying not to fall out because the road was like driving on constant speed bumps. This traffic was nothing, and there it was…. I started to appreciate driving more. I started to appreciate that fact of smooth and paved roads. I started to appreciate that there was a radio station I could listen to. It’s these small things that we all take for granted until we are without them.
After being in Haiti for a week, it was now impossible to have a bad day in Canada ever again.
â€œNo man on his death bed ever looked up into the eyes of his family and friends and said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the officeâ€ ~ Anonymous
The Haitian people also taught me how important community and family is. You could have all the money in the world, but if you have nobody to share it with, then what’s the point? Two examples come to mind from that week. While helping out with the schools, our group leader, Jim Turnbull, would always buy the Haitian workers a large meal for lunch. There were 12 workers and he would always buy 13 meals just incase. Well, one day, 3 haitian kids were hanging out around the school playing and curious as to what was going on with all the construction. They were dirty, very mal-nourished but were always smiling. You could tell that they needed to eat. Well there was only 13 meals and 15 people??? In North America, that’s called “tough luck”, but in Haiti its called sharing. The 12 workers all took a bit out of their own meals and divided everything up evenly and made sure that the children ate first. We can be such pigs here, that our meal would be gone before the thought of sharing even came up. Lesson learned: You eat first, then I’ll eat. Take care of your friends and family and they’ll take care of you. Sure it sounds like a simple lesson about food, but it goes deeper than that. I apply it to myself and how I run my businesses. Anyone who works for me, gets paid first. I’m the last one to get paid just as I would be the last one to eat. It kills me to see business owners who don’t treat their employees with the respect they deserve. It’s no coincidence that their businesses don’t last.
Another example of community that I witnessed happened every morning at 7am. Picture this….. every morning a couple of your neighbors would gather out front of their house, play guitar really loud and have everyone sing along. You would be on the phone to the police in seconds. This is what’s wrong with our society. We are so money driven. We need our sleep to make our money. The thought of waking up five minutes earlier because people are having fun is such an inconvenience to us that we do whatever we can to stop it. It was such a joy to witness this every morning in Haiti. I made sure I was up at 7am, to catch the blind Haitian man playing according on the front porch while other Haitian’s gathered and sang along. Talk about a sense of community. People having fun and enjoying life. Sure he may have hit the wrong notes sometimes or been off key while singing.. but who cares. I wish that stuff like this would happen here.
Below is a video I shot of this one morning. (Also, if you remember I talked about a man named Urlick in my last post. The amazing painter on crutches. You can see him in this clip)
My time in Haiti was definitely the greatest experience of my life. I came back with a feeling of accomplishment but didn’t know I would come back a new person. What’s a Blackberry? Oh is it that metal thing that I pick up from time to time and have learned to live without? You mean hanging out and playing cards with your friends and family is more rewarding than spending all day frantically watching the stock market? Yes.. yes it is.
The Haitians taught me so much about myself and how to live a happy life. Can you believe that there are actually some people in this world, who own multiple BMWs, own multiple 4000+ square foot homes and can somehow be unhappy? Everyone says we should get the Haitians out of Haiti and bring them here and all problems would be solved, but why on earth would we want to expose them to this ‘need and greed’ society we live in. If anything, we need to bring people from North America to Haiti and experience how full life can be having nothing.
Below I have included some more of my photos and video from Haiti.