Friday, December 21, 2007

Running on Empty

People who are in the "giving" professions are supposed to always be ready with an answer, right? Of course, everyone knows that is unrealistic yet the expectation is still there. I think this is true for all the helping professions: ministers, teachers, nurses, doctors, etc.
Yet, when I was heading back to Haiti earlier this month I was running on an empty tank.
Have you ever been there?
I mean, I could hardly think of a postive encouraging thing to say to members of my own family, let alone people I might run into. This was the result of a month of travel and activity and stress leading to a mild depressive state or exhaustion. All that to say again, I was running on empty.
The morning I arose at 5 AM to meet our flight taking us home to Haiti, I remember praying: "God I have nothing to offer you." I hadn't felt that tired in a long time.
Still, I slugged through getting the bleary eyed kids up, dressed and in the car(s). Then hauling the seven pieces of luggage to grumpy airline personnel. Anyway, by the time we finally made it to the gate, I wasn't feeling any more energetic.
Still, as we boarded the flight there was a certain peace that only comes when you're doing what you're supposed to. I settled in our assigned row with my older daughter. She wanted to sit next to the window but I told her we'd have to wait and see if the person assigned there would switch with her. A few minutes later there appeared a youthful looking woman in jeans who didn't mind a bit if we switched seats.
As the flight lifted off, I told her again that I appreciated her kindness to my daughter. We began chatting about our children. Getting back into the Kreyol language was good, as there are nuances that just can't be expressed any other way. I found that her children were grown. She had immigrated to the states decades ago and then was summarily abandoned by her husband. She had spent the last few years working any possible job as she sent her youngest son to college. Further into the flight, she asked if I could help her fill out the Haitian immigration & customs card--she was illiterate. I found also that she was actually much older than she appeared-now approaching 60. Yet at this point in her life she wanted to go back to Haiti and run a small business to help those in her home village. Such a familiar story.
She asked some questions about me, as to how a middle aged white woman spoke Kreyol well? She said, "you know, I knew as soon as I saw you and heard how you spoke with me that you were a Christian." She was not surprised when she later met my husband and said, "he has the eyes of a pastor." I was startled towards the end of our flight when she broke down in tears and said, "not many people talk to me like this. I hope you will remember to pray for me. I'm not baptized yet, but I seek God." I assured her that I would. As we parted getting off the plane, I gave her a hug and told her, I would remember her.
I looked for her a few times after going through immigration and at the baggage claim, but there were two large international flights arriving and I never saw her again. I did keep my word and have prayed for her several times.
What later brought tears to my eyes was when I thought of how amazing God really is. Here I am, with absolutely no energy, no seeming resources of my own to offer yet HE can still use us to express grace and acceptance to those we meet. Only God can do that. It was an encouraging affirmation at this point that despite what I feel, what I little I may hope for, His purposes will still be worked out.