15 January 2016

Red-Faced Grace

I've had three different people in the last 2 weeks mention this old blog post from January 2013, "Red-Faced Grace"  So I'm posting it again...Throwback Friday!

I've been trying to figure out how to blog about a really culturally revealing, hilarious story I lived last week in a way that doesn't make anyone blush.  There is value to the story, and a look into the little everyday true joys of living in Haiti...so I'm gonna try!

Last week, Ta-Ta, Sofie and I got to school early to pick Lily up.  The scene outside the school gate is already very culturally rich.  There are only two moms picking children up in cars (Cammie and I) and so no one is sitting in their vans with the engines running, drinking their Starbucks and texting while they wait.  

Oh no.  This is key community time.  To the left of the huge fortress-like gate, clustered under the shade of a sole palm are the women.  Moms all standing and sitting around, some with infants in arms, talking and laughing, sometimes buying and selling, calling out to passerby's...waiting with friends.  

In front of the gate are the vendors, 6 or 7 women with pallets of hard candy, gum and potato chips to sell to school kids inside the gates, a few with broken coolers and cold drinks, sometimes a woman with fried dough.  

Then, on the other side of the street, but also in front of the school, are the men.  All their motorcycles are parked there, and the dads and moto-taxi drivers stand about, talking, and sometimes, joking, wrestling, trying out Jackie Chan moves on each other, and sometimes calling to the women.

Until the first ribboned 3-year old hits the other side of the gate, everyone stays in their designated area, in no rush, enjoying the company.  But the moment Belo pulls out his key ring and starts to unlock the gate, everyone rushes it, pressing the huge metal portay in, suddenly in a big rush to grab their kids (and usually, all their neighbor's kids) and get back to their homes.
It's in this intricate little community that I wait for Lily, with the women, of course, usually with several of them playing with Sofie and offering her sugar cane or hard candy.  

But this past week, right when I found my place in the shade and put Sofie down to play with another baby, another woman made her way into the middle of the group, pulling a huge yellow tub off her head, and placed it in the middle of the gaggle...an overflow of silky, but well-used, red, white, pink and tan soutienne: bras.

Bras are not easy to come by around here.  And trying to find one in decent shape that actually fits?  That must be some challenge. So, I wasn't too surprised when the women quickly gathered around the bucket, chattering excitedly and digging through the mountain, looking for something that might fit.  

You see where this is going, don't you?

Just a moment later without realizing I had gone there, I was in the middle of a dressing room at Victoria's Secret for the community bra fitting of a life-time...except we were still just sitting under our tree in the shade.  On the main road to Port-au-Prince.  With a million people around.

In a community of women who would mostly say they are Christians, sitting in front of a Christian school,  most everyone was wearing their culturally-moral and traditional skirts, but trying on and trading off bras on the main street.  Poking fun at one another as they worked, and when the occasional truly terrible bra was found, the boldest of the mothers would try that baby on, anyway, and dance around a bit, sending her fellow sisters into peals of laughter and hilarious uproar.  

I mean, I was laughing SO hard by the time Lily came, I had tears in my eyes, and as I went to wipe them away saw them streaming down Ta-Ta's face, as well.  

Suddenly, thoughts of "Oh man.  I am in the wrong place at the wrong time" turned to the realization that I was in the right place at the right time...in the middle of a happy woman community moment, accepting it for what it was, and full of laughter.  Life.  

As I thought more about this seemingly cultural contradiction later with Sarah, we realized that somehow, modestly wearing skirts and being half-naked at the same time "works" in Haiti.  Just as you will drive through town and see men outside their homes with a bucket, bathing.  They are not naked.  They are bathing.  These women weren't nude.  They were trying on bras!  Compartmentalized necessary temporary nudity.

If there'd been a Target, they'd be there.  And if the bucket came with a dressing-room, everyone would have picked a stall.   If there'd been a return policy, everyone would have just grabbed one and come back later with their receipt if it hadn't fit.

But what we had was what we had.  And everyone dealt with the manner not only quite efficiently, but with joy.

Which made me realize how often I throw my judgement out there--or at least mull it in my head-- without ever thinking from another's shoes.  

How often I know what you should be doing, how it should be done, what is not appropriate, without ever imagining where you might be coming from, what you might be going through, what might be complete and total SENSE for you, what might even be necessary for your situation.

The moment not only gave me joy and a red face, but grace.  

We have a lot to learn from each other.  How good it is to learn in the company of friends--and those who will be--when we are loving...not judging.

Get out there with me today with a heart full of grace, and meet every questionable style, every glare, every annoyance, every attitude as something we might not understand, but with LOVE.

Please don't do anything that'll get you arrested.

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