When I first made the trip to Haiti at the age of 14, Douchanje Saint Amour was one of the first people that I met. Since our first meeting, we have become very good friends. When I have a question about anything that is happening in Haiti, he is the first person that I contact.
We had lost connection with each other in recent years due mostly to my lack of traveling to Haiti to visit, but as soon as the earthquake happened, I sent an email his direction. We had not spoken face to face in at least six years. That was until this trip.
We sat under a mango tree just outside of Cap-Haitien and talked. There was not a purpose or reason for the conversation besides simply reconnecting an old friendship. A few minutes in to the conversation, I realized why we were such great friends. Both of us have a deep desires for the spiritual well-being of others, business ventures, and Haiti.
As with most of my discussions with Haitian friends, we ended up talking about how to improve Haiti in the wake of the devastation from the earthquake. Both of us agreed that aid money would not solve the problem, but potentially make it worse by continuing to feed the "handout mentality" that is embraced by many Haitians. We threw around ideas of how we could make a difference.
During the discussion, I asked Douchanje how people continue to push forward through all the troubles that seem to have been thrown in their paths with such determination and drive. His answer summed up in a short phrase an overarching theme that had reoccurrd in many discussions that I had had with Haitians. He responded by saying simply, "It's the Haitian way." I thought about that for a second with a somewhat puzzled look on my face. Douchanje recognized my nonverbal signs and began to clarify. "Haitians do not believe in giving up. We must push on no matter what comes in our way. Giving up is not an option. If we want to move forward as a country, we have to find the inner strength to make progress. Sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves will not solve anything. It's the Haitian way to keep going forward no matter what life puts in your path."
The lightbulb went off in my head. His words summed up the mindset of so many Haitians whose actions had puzzled me. I kept trying to figure out how you keep up the will to live when in a matter of seconds you could have lost every worldly possession you owned, as well as family and friends.
Haitians do not believe in giving up. They will keep pushing forward no matter what. I admire this a lot.
Douchanje and I hugged and then parted ways. We spoke many more times while I was in Haiti, but none made as much of an impact on me as this statement.