Getting older means a lot of different things to people depending on their culture, their situation in life, and their belief about what happens to them after they die. After my birthday a couple of days ago, I started thinking about the role our age plays in our lives. I remember the first time I really noticed my age. I was playing basketball with the kids in Haiti against some people that we didn’t know, so I was playing pretty hard and trying to win. I remember a particular drive when I had a pretty clear lane for a layup. I was taking my 2 steps before laying the ball in and I specifically remember thinking these thoughts:
- “Am I ever going to get to the basket.”
- “I wish I had a stop watch to see how slowly I was actually moving.”
- “Have I always moved this slowly or has something happened recently?”
I know this is a pretty unimportant example, but at that moment I realized that I was a lot older than I used to be. I also realized that I didn’t mind getting older at all. Having kids, being a part of All Things New, and knowing that GOD was using me right where I was all brought pretty clear perspective to my life. I didn’t fear getting older, and I knew that if I were younger that I would not be nearly as effective leading the ministry that GOD had called me to.
I also started thinking about what it means to get older for other people in my life, and my thoughts fell specifically to the kids at All Things New. Did you know that 13 of the 19 kids who live with us are 13 or older? This means that more than half of our kids will be turning 18 in the next 5 years and they have to begin deciding what to do with the rest of their lives. In America, this is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life because there are so many different opportunities. Many 18-year-olds in America are deciding what career path they desire, if that career path begins in college, which college to attend, and what can they do to be happy and provide for their future families. In Haiti, this excitement is mostly absent. I think about how our kids have all that they need where they are now and they are well taken care of. I think about the fear that our older kids must have about their future when they know they will have to leave the orphanage and figure out how to provide for themselves in an environment that boasts an almost unbelievable unemployment rate and an average salary of $440 PER YEAR.
When I turned 18, I could not wait to be off on my own. I had spent the last 18 years with parents who loved me, a church that helped me develop, wonderful schooling, and a great support system in general. I had been wanting to attend college at Georgia Tech since I could remember and I could not wait to see what it was like. While there was some nervousness about being away from friends and family, the overwhelming feeling about what would happen next was one of excitement and hope. When I think about Herbison, Dada, and Gueline going out on their own for the first time, I cannot imagine what they must be feeling. They spent the first 14 years of their lives in poverty and without people who had the ability to care for them and love them. All of a sudden they come to a place where they have food, help, adults to teach them, and a group of people who love them and are completely focused on helping them succeed and they have thrived under the consistency. Soon, they will be asked to leave that safe world and enter into one of the most difficult environments that I can imagine. They will not be losing their support system because All Things New will always be there for them and will help them however we can, but things will be different.
For us as Americans, it is really difficult to comprehend living like this. So many of us have so many different levels of protection and support and we know that no matter what happens we will be alright. If we lose our job or experience tragedy, we probably have family or at least friends who will step in however they can. At the very least, we have government programs and welfare systems in place that would prevent us from starving and being without basic needs. Many of us have the ability to save and put money away for retirement, and those things are wonderful. Now, try to imagine what life would be like if those things were not in place. If you were the one expected to care for your family (like many of our employees) or if you did not have family to fall back on (like all of our kids). What if it was almost impossible to find a job that could provide for your family’s needs and even if you did, if you were ever to lose that job you many never find another. There is always this underlying tension that you could lose everything that you worked for.
For the most part, I have enjoyed getting older throughout my life and have always enjoyed the triumphs and challenges that come along the way. But as the new year starts, please pray for our kids and our ministry as we try to help our kids navigate the challenges of “Getting Older” in Haiti. The challenge of deciding what they can do for the rest of their lives, how to find a job, and how to grow in their relationship with Christ while dealing with the challenges that they will face. As you pray, thank GOD that you are in a position that getting older is a blessing and that you do not have to face many of these challenges in your life and ask GOD how you can help others who face these struggles every day.