She snickers, under her breath, mumbling words in Creole. The surrounding women laugh at the joke she’s just made. They lean back, clenching their stomachs, clapping their hands, cackling during this moment of comic relief in an otherwise chaotic life. But her joke suggests more. Maybe this woman feels forgotten by the world. Maybe she craves attention, not out of pride but out of a longing to feel needed, a longing to be heard. Maybe she wants to be known as more than just a number, more than a statistic, more than an image on the media portraying Haiti as poor and pitiful.
Dede. Her face, at first engraved with a smirk, softens. I’ve been waiting for an hour to go home, praying God would make a way for me because I don’t have money for a ride, she says. The jokes are aside now as her tone of voice changes from that of slight condemnation to sincere gratitude. She climbs into the passenger seat after sliding her five-year-old daughter into the back, who quickly falls asleep for the duration of the drive.
Dede has four children, and when asked whether or not she will have more, she laughs, not because it’s funny but because she can hardly bear the thought of bringing another life into this harsh world. Another child is not something she wants, but she also knows it’s something over which she often has no control. I do not wish that, but if it’s God’s will…she trails off, imagining the reality of a life in poverty with multiple mouths to feed. Her long time partner and the father of two of her children can’t find work, so she resumes her responsibility to provide for her family, to put her children in school, hoping to someday pay off the land she purchased as a result of her job at Papillon. She travels far to work each day, but this isn’t a problem, she says, because she has a steady income. And in a country with a high rate of unemployment, she is grateful for the opportunity she was offered to be a part of the artisan business.
Like Dede, Haitians are not shy to make light of their grave situations. Perhaps if they can somehow mask their suffering, others won’t think less of them. Maybe if they can conceal their emotions, they won’t be seen as weak. Words of discouragement and negativity fly from their mouths often without even a second thought. But how would one remain positive when it seems all is against them? Imagine living in a constant state of survival, never feeling good enough, never feeling acknowledged, never feeling worthy in this big world. Imagine the sacrifice, imagine the weight, imagine the wounds that never to seem to heal. The scars are many. The problems are complicated. The trauma is deep.
Dede steps out onto the bustling curbside to catch one more ride to her final destination. The witty woman amongst her co-workers has been replaced by someone gentle and gracious. After less than an hour together, her tender spirit is evidenced by her pleasant outlook on her own difficult life. She carries on, hoping for the future but content in the present. And despite the way she may feel about herself, she is worthy.