broke-down city

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The babies are toddling over each other on the tarp laid out under a make-shift roof in this tent camp. Feet and arms and heads bump together, but they are oblivious. None of them wear diapers. I imagine in a place that there are no stores, no money, no changing tables and no electricity, diapers aren’t a huge concern.

The missionary is playing the guitar and singing. Her 16-year-old son sets up a puppet show beside her. The children sing along. They know all the words. One cuddles into the crook under my arm. She lays her head in my lap and drifts off to sleep.

Life must be tiring here.

The roads are dried up river beds from the quick wash of rain that comes in the evenings. Blue tarps are stretched over sticks into tents tucked in undeveloped plots of land. Half-built buildings are more common than those that are finished. A woman walks along the side walk, a bucket on her head while she eats with both hands. Under red and white umbrellas, they sell bags of water and trinkets and food.

At every turn is hardship. The people here have to fight to survive. And yet they do. Coursing through the rubble that still lies in the streets of this broke-down city is a resiliency that keeps them fighting.

Once again, I realize how much I have.

The puppet show is over. We have sung and prayed. The girl under my left arm reaches up to touch my pony tail, testing the hair that is so different from hers between her fingers. I squeeze her and we stand up.

A mother chatters in Creole. She scoots the children close to me, gathering them from all around her into my fold. A photo? I mime, handing her my camera. Her dramatic features furrow in confusion.

Later the missionary explains that the women like to have white people touch their children, believing it brings some kind of blessing. I hope they will someday understand blessing only comes from Him. I pray for these families the earthquake gathered together in tents between brick walls.

I will never know what they have gone through or what they have lost. I know my perspective comes through the sterile and safe filter of an American. I don’t have a solution that will pave their roads or educate their children. I just have love.

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