The Lawn Mower
Over the past few weeks, we have been sharing a lot of things that have been happening down here in Haiti. We have moved our children to Hope Rising’s campus, we have been living with the children 24/7, and we have learned a lot about running an orphanage and taking care of the children of All Things New. In the midst of this, there have been some very serious things that have happened, some very sad things, some very incredible things, and some very funny things. We will share a lot of specific events that have gone on since we have been here, but it is important to remember that these are just anecdotes and events that have happened. Our children (and us) still need your prayers as things continue to transition. Can you imagine, as a child, being uprooted from everything you have ever known? These children have spent the past 5 years with little to no supervision (except for the few hours per day we were there), not being able to trust others, very few rules, with friends they have made and no longer see, and a myriad of other issues that will continue to arise the longer we are here. It has been a truly incredible past month, and our children are getting used to the new routines, but it is still difficult and we still desperately need your prayers. In the midst of this, however, I do want to share a pretty funny story about the lawn mower here at Hope Rising.
Before I start, I want everyone to think back to your memories of lawn mowers. For me, I remember having to cut our yard many Saturday mornings before I was allowed to do other things, and honestly I didn’t care for it. I think the first time I ever did it, I felt proud that I was allowed to cut our grass, but that did not last very long. I began to dread the words, “get up and cut the grass” because I knew I would not be allowed to go and play with my friends, or when I got older I would not be allowed to go anywhere until the yard was cut. I also knew that I wanted to sleep or watch television a lot more than I wanted to cut the grass on a Saturday morning. Now, looking back, it was not bad at all, in fact it was exactly what my parents should have made me do. However, at the time, it seemed like a punishment that I had to get up and do this…
Fast forward to 3 weeks ago when our kids saw the lawn mower at Hope Rising for the first time. They had seen a lawn mower before and knew what it was, but none of them had ever used one before. They did not know how to start it, and I’m pretty sure they did not know the whole, “don’t put your hands under the lawn mower while it is running” rule. So I took one of our older boys out and showed him how to start it and use it. I went over some lawn mower rules, and he was ready to go. I then noticed that a lot of the other boys were just watching what was happening and were clearly jealous. In fact, at least 3 of them proceeded to tell me how good they were with a lawn mower and that they had cut grass like that many times (which I know to be not true because most people cut grass with a machete here). I think the exact quote was, “Matt, I am very good with that machine. I will cut the grass very well.” But I told them that they would all get a turn eventually, and they went back to studying. I made the mistake of thinking it was over…
Over the next few days I had numerous requests to cut grass. So the next Saturday came and it was time for soccer practice (we have 2 of our tutors that come and coach our kids every Saturday). Chinaider (one of our boys who is 18 and comes to work for us each Saturday) was there and was cutting the grass around the soccer field to make it look nicer, and as soon as soccer practice was over, all of the boys begged me to stay so they could help clean the field. It struck me immediately that they thought of this as a privilege and an opportunity to possibly use the lawn mower. I told our older boys they could stay out and help, and they could each use the lawn mower (again, making sure they understood the lawn mower rules). I thought maybe it would last a few minutes before they would get bored and come in. Well, this started at about 10 and we had to make them come in to eat lunch. Directly after lunch, Chinaider went back out to finish cutting the grass and it was not long before the older boys asked to go out again.
I said they could, and I am not exaggerating when I say they used the lawn mower pretty consistently from 2:00-5:45, only stopping to clear out part of the yard so that they could cut again. In fact, at one point, Woodly was cutting the grass and 2 other boys (Kervinson and Apolon) were following him just walking next to him. Of course I had to remind them of the “no playing next to the running lawn mower rule,” and then I finally made them stop cutting the grass and start playing soccer again.
I thought for sure that the novelty would wear off, especially after spending a good 4 hours in the Haitian heat. But, I was wrong again. I still consistently get requests for the older boys to be able to go out and use the lawn mower to cut the grass. I keep waiting for it to be a chore rather than a privilege, but I am starting to think that will never happen. At this point, in fact, I am not sure that being able to use the lawn mower is not the best possible reward we have for the older boys. It is just funny that this is what motivates them. Something that boys this age in America see as a chore and even a punishment is a wonderful adventure for our boys in Haiti.