Haitian Hospitality

A reflection from Debbie Betts on her travel to Haiti in January 2014:

In the 11 years that my husband and I have been married, we have developed a system for entertaining in our home.  I run around, stressed-out, trying to clean everything perfectly for our guests.  Mike plans the food and drink.  We always have a great time, but when it comes time to clean up, I wonder why I spent so much time fretting about the house beforehand.  For years I worried what people thought of my house.  Was it clean enough?  Would someone let their baby crawl around on my floors?  Would they notice the stain upstairs that I just can’t get rid of?

I read blogs and articles several times a week about balance, organization, keeping a healthier household.  It’s a popular topic among my friends as well.  And while I worry about the state of my own home, I compare it to the homes of friends, oftentimes feeling that mine is somehow inferior.  I have watched friends clean up a drip of salsa that lands on the floor.  I’ve seen them sweep and vacuum cupcake sprinkles as children leave the table with their treats.  And I wonder why we aren’t just enjoying each others’ company.

While I was in Haiti in January, we visited the homes of families whose children attend Lekol Sen Trinite, a school in Jacmel.  These families are among the poorest in Haiti, and so they are also some of the poorest in the entire world.  And we just walked up to their homes to meet them, hear about their children who are now able to attend school because of the support provided at Lekol Sen Trinite.  Did these women panic that their floors are dirt, that their bedding isn’t freshly washed, that their beans were cooking in a pot over a small fire just outside their door?  Maybe they did, but while one woman’s daughter was folding the last of the laundry and removing it from the bed, she was telling her other children to bring more and more chairs inside so we could all sit down.  I don’t think we could have all fit in her tiny, dark, one-room home, but that didn’t stop her from trying to get us all out of the sun and to have a seat.  That was all that she could offer us, and that hospitality spoke volumes to me.

My reaction to having twelve strangers enter my home would have been drastically different.  I probably would have warned someone not to sit on that chair, “it’s full of dog hair, that’s where he sleeps when I’m not home.”  I would have been thinking, “please don’t see all the dust on the baseboards, or the fingerprints on the fridge.”

Will I be able to remember this woman the next time a friend drops by unannounced?  Will I simply invite her in, offer her a cup of coffee and a seat at the table?  Will I be able to emulate this Haitian woman, and offer something so simple, yet taking care of my guests perfectly?