The second day we were in Haiti we attended a service at the church Danita’s Children operates. Because the service was in Creole, and because it was cooler there, we sat on the back row. Just before the service was to begin, a Haitian boy came in and sat just in front of us. He walked with a very pronounced limp, holding out his arms as if to balance himself. We later learned that he is suffering from muscular dystrophy.
The boy’s name, we came to learn, is Everson. During the service Everson clutched a tattered old pamphlet of some kind. We suspect it was his only possession. It was extremely hot, and Cherie was fanning herself with a paper book marker, which had a daily Bible reading plan printed on it. There is a big stack of them in our church, that are handed out for free to anyone who wants one. She noticed that Everson kept looking over at the book marker, so she handed it to him. He gently took it, and began looking very intently at it, turning it over and over and obviously admiring it greatly. Later Everson handed it back to Cherie, and she motioned for him to keep it. He beamed with joy, as if he’d just been given some expensive toy.
At one point in the service it became evident that they were taking up a collection. People began to get up from their seats and walk to the front, where they were dropping offerings into a box. Our friend Stephanie took out some money and handed it to Everson. Without hesitation, and with a magnificent smile, he bounced up from his seat and with his crooked, almost stumbling, walk , he carried the money to the front and dropped it in. Everson was as happy as I have ever seen any kid be, and we wonder if that was the only time in his life he’d had anything to give.
For much of the service Cherie was sobbing like a baby. I asked her if she was OK, and all she could say was, “…that boy….”
When the service was over the boys from the orphanage began to stack the chairs, and Everson pitched right in. Even though we came to learn that he is not one of the orphans, and therefore is not responsible for putting away the chairs, he joined in joyfully. It was painful to watch him carrying and stacking chairs, since it seemed to us that just walking was a challenge for him, but Everson was clearly happy to be helping.
I never saw him without a big smile on his face.
Later in the week Everson invited us to visit his home. There we met his wonderful mother, who keeps a two-room house where she provides for her six children, and her invalid mother in law. She somehow scrapes up enough money from working in the market to feed them all, and to send Everson to school. There are no public schools in Haiti. Only those who can pay, can receive an education.
Everson’s condition will continue to deteriorate. Eventually he will be unable to walk at all. Wheelchairs are out of the question in Haiti, so I have no idea how he will manage.
Everson’s situation is not typical of the children in Ounaminthe. In fact, he has it much better than most that we saw.
I don’t know what will happen to Everson. I do worry about him, and all the kids in that wretched place. But because of his example, and so many others, I know there is hope for Haiti, and I know that we are called to help improve the lives of kids like Everson.