Just last week, a team of high school students visited the communities of Piatre and Camp Marie in Haiti. Today’s story comes from trip participant, Jamie Williamson. Read along as she shares a unique perspective through her gift of writing and photography…
Its late afternoon and I just got back home from arguably one of the most eye-opening trips I have ever been on. To be completely honest, I didn’t really realize how impactful and inspiring the trip had been until I arrived home earlier and did the first thing I always do after long trips away, edit pictures. I have an undeniable passion for photography and love capturing the world through a lens, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to do so. Now, if you’re a photographer, you know one of the number one rules is to never stop shooting. Well, I shot about as much as I could. I was behind my camera taking pictures about every other minute trying to take it all in while still creating a way to hold onto every moment.
As I sit here now looking back on all the beautiful faces of the people that fell into the lens of my camera, two specific words come to mind.
Poverty and joy.
Most people don’t put these words together or associate them at all. In fact, most people find it impossible to even imagine a life with both. Yes, it is hard to imagine, even more hard to live, but that is exactly what I saw.
People living lives encompassing immense poverty, so harsh that we can’t even begin to imagine, and yet in all of it having an amount of joy that most of us have never felt. I saw this joy in cracked, dirty children’s faces as they took my clean, white-skin hand without fear. I saw it in the eyes that have just opened up to the world and in the ones that have seen a lifetime. I saw it in the callused feet that walked miles on rubble roads with no shoes and bare skin. I saw it in the weary yet proud men in the fields who worked with intensity to provide for their family. I saw it in a community that would open up their heart and their church, welcoming all, and sing at the top of their lungs with nothing but clapping hands as background music. I saw it in strangers loving strangers, cultures accepting cultures, all without any fright of lack of communication or outward difference getting in the way.
I saw this joy, true joy, in every individual I came in contact with in the community, and it was contagious. Even when I couldn’t speak their language, they all interacted with me with a level of love and joy that I haven’t seen in a while. A level that was inspiring.
Recently I have struggled with the meaning of love and joy. What does it mean to love others unconditionally? Or to live in true joy? Is it even possible? I began to doubt that it was, and a mindset where love and joy aren’t obtainable is a dark place to be. Well, I can’t say that I have found the answer or really even understand it, because I don’t. I don’t understand how someone could live with that little yet have so much. But what I can tell you is that I have seen it and I feel it. I see it in the smiles of each and every child. The smiles that represent rich and true joy through faces of poverty.
It’s those beautiful white smiles that make me think of a song that one of my friends would not stop singing the whole trip, no matter how many times I assured him he sounded like a 12 year old girl;). The song is called Smile, and the repetitive lyrics read, “Smile, the worst is yet to come.” I sang this catchy upbeat phrase along with my friend, not really comprehending the words that I was saying. Once I listened back to it though I realized what a contradictory phrase it is in meaning, commanding to smile but because there is worse things to come. Huh? I was confused and didn’t understand, just like I couldn’t understand the two words joy and poverty being one. But then I took a step back and realized just what it was saying. It was talking about living in joy. Like really LIVING in joy. We live in a world where trials and struggles hit us at just about every corner, we are even promised that in life, and people tend to face that fact differently. They live in anger if something doesn’t go their way or trial hits. Some live in constant fear of the future, holding back from really feeling and truly living. And others face the world with a joyous confidence that is ready to take on the inevitable trials that we call, well, life.
This last person is what this song is saying to live like. That yes, the worst is yet to come, because we live in a world with constant struggles. Things constantly not going our way and surprises when we least expect them. But it’s how we choose to face this life. It tells us to face it with a smile, because that is the only way to truly live. Doing the opposite is living in fear, anger, or dissatisfaction, and that won’t lead you to a life filled with joy, but to one that is constantly feeling empty and not good enough. And, to put it quite bluntly, we will never really know what our worst is to come, so why live in the emptiness of waiting? Why not spend it the way the people in those pictures do, with pure joy.
When I think about those 7 words, “smile, the worst is yet to come,” I think that maybe that is the secret. Maybe that is what causes the people living in complete poverty to have that level of joy.
And then I think, well really those 7 words that encompass those people is really one word. FAITH. Isn’t that really what faith is? A promise of trust that will get us through every obstacle. A trust with the only one that can give us that true joy and a lifetime of it. The only one that can get us through the worst of the worst.
I think we doubt the power of faith a lot of times. Real faith in Jesus who created a plan for our lives and is watching it unravel just the way he wants it to. I began to doubt the power of this faith recently, and the meaning of true faith. But now I am reminded by just one smile that it changes the way we live life. True faith gives hope to the hopeless, strength to the weary, a path for the lost, and joy to the darkened soul.
I saw faith in every smile that shined back to me over the past 5 days. A smile that I first couldn’t understand or put words around, but now I realize the truth behind. Faith is what brings the poverished soul to living a life of real joy, true and beautiful joy, something that can be represented by just a smile.
James 1; 2-3
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
“May the lord God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
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