Haiti is known for its variety of issues circling around the news. But this little country has so much to teach us. While minimalistic living and simplicity are on trend in the United States, this island nation has been living the simple life for a long time.
1.) Family is important, no matter what it looks like.
The kids in Haiti run wild, reminding me of when I was a kid playing outside until the street lights came on. They all have their families, though, and they are just as varied and crazy as those we can find in the United States. They give so selflessly to their family members, pitching in to pay for schooling and housing. They make food for one another. They champion one another. This has been especially inspiring for me. Though the material possessions they have might be limited, the family structure in Haiti shows us to put our best foot forward in lifting one another up, spending time together and learning from one another.
2.) Good food takes preparation.
In our fast food saturated culture, it has been a real breath of fresh air to watch the way Haitians prepare their meals. With such care, they shell peas, they shave coconut, they cut carrots. It takes the better part of 4 hours for these women to create a delicious meal, and it is cooked in that overwhelming love. What happens in between the time started and time finished is also just as magical- the connection between family members and community members- stopping by just to help with dinner. Sure beats Hardee’s if you ask me.
3.) Use the materials you have.
Haitians are some of the most creative people I have met. While they might do some things uniformly, they are incredibly resourceful and creative when it comes to using what is available to them to accomplish a task. They take upcycled to a new level from a young age- children make toy trucks from tin cans and boxes, they play with rocks and they love their lives! As they grow up, they don’t waste much. All parts of the animal are eaten in one form or fashion; houses are built as materials are found and not the other way around; people use what they have and get creative. It has been incredibly inspiring for me.
4.) Organic is best.
Got a cold? Boil the leaves from an orange tree, add a little salt and put the water in a tea for an herbal drink. Tummy troubles? Put that ginger root in a mortar and pestle with some mint and lemon for a tea that will cure your ailments. Eat a guava to stop your diarrhea. The list of special remedies go on, but my Haitian friends have taught me the importance of eating clean and organic. They prefer peanuts from the mountain farms, their turkeys roaming around and their watercress grown in the nearby water source. The food they eat plays such a large role in their culture and society and what they use for each ingredient reminds us all that this is the way food should be enjoyed.
5.) Celebrate moments.
When I first started working in Haiti, I was in my typical American task-mode. I buzzed around from project to project, not taking in the culture to be celebrated. I realized the nature of the culture of celebration ironically through the death of a community member. Though this culture is not always expressive, they take each event of life as a rite of passage: celebrating these moments and embracing our fragility. I have heard it say that we become consumers through the need to feel invincible. How the Haitians celebrate each moment speaks more to me about how to live my life than denying my mortality does. They inspire me to take advantage of each chance we get: to be proud, to laugh, to lament, and to celebrate simply being together.