He stumbles towards me as I lean one leg off the porch, my left arm wrapped around a pole suspending myself over the edge of the deck. “What does he want now?”, I immediately think to myself. This man is an elderly fellow, probably 50 by my estimation, but that being an old, worn sort of 50. He has silver chin stubble that frills up from his chin as raggedly as he struts. Dressed in a well worn black and blue striped polo and some tattered dark brown pants. Our interaction began and he served up a handshake and a “how did you sleep” (spoken in his native tongue of Haitian Creole). An odd question considering it was well into the afternoon. “Mwen dormi bien” I return. I am then taken by surprise from the elated look on his face. This complete stranger is overjoyed at the news of me sleeping well. One side of his lip curled up revealing a few rotten teeth, while the other side lay limp. He had a sparkle in his eye that only appears on those truly genuine friends.
We then exchange names and Pierre Ropiert gets down to the point. He has hunger. This question especially breaks my heart this morning. My presuppositions and my “What does he want” attitude have dropped as well as my smile. Only for a moment, though, as it is quickly replaced by my fake grin and a change of topic. I drag on the conversation with as much small talk I have in my limited creole vocabulary. Inevitably, the time comes to say I’m sorry and walk away. He is still rubbing his belly and displaying a sorrowful face as I walk away.
I don’t know why I didn’t pray for that man right then. I don’t know where he came from or if I’ll ever see him again. What I do know is that he was hungry, and I said no. This is a daily thing in Haiti. Missionaries have discovered that hand-outs just teach people how to beg and not how to provide for themselves or be self-sufficient. The only way to combat this cycle of begging is to not give to beggars, but teach them to sustain themselves with a skill. The scenario today wasn’t new, but that man was new, and I don’t know if he knows christ. And so, we both walk away broken down with heavy hearts. For this man, I weep.