Just a few days before I returned to Haiti I went out to eat with my parents and a couple of family friends. Where I come from in Iowa, we don’t go out to eat at restaurants, we go out to eat at towns, depending on what food we’re in the mood for. Merrill for Mexican, Remsen for steak, Marcus for a burger… you get the picture. On this night we were going out to Germantown for fried chicken. And the family friends that we were going with are some of Mom and Dad’s best friends from back in their high school days that they have remained friends with to this day. The husband, in fact, is such a good friend to my father that my middle name is in his honor, Daniel. And I’ve always liked these friends of my parents and see them frequently whenever I’m back home. One of the things I like most is getting in political debates with Dan. I’m not sure that there’s a person in this world who could be farther on the other end of the spectrum from me on our social views. And Dan’s a guy who loves to stir the pot whenever he’s in a group and say something that he knows is going to be controversial.
This night in Germantown was no exception. When he said that Barack Obama was a dirty Socialist hellbent on destroying our country and Ben Carson would make a much better president, I let it slide because I knew I was outnumbered on that one when a table full of drunk guys behind us cheered him on. When he claimed that Obamacare was taking away everyone’s freedoms I told him to quit making stuff up but left it at that knowing how uncomfortable it makes both his wife and my mom when I engage him and really get him going. But when he started in on Michael Brown, the moment the words “thug” and “monster” were used, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. We continued on for the next 10 minutes in a passionate, but respectful debate about the characterization of the victim and real underlying issues that prompted the worldwide protests to the situation. Neither of us convinced the other of anything, but we laid our points out in front of each other and at least let each other know that we were not okay with what the other was saying. We had a discussion that didn’t change either of our minds but presented both perspectives not just to each other but to everyone around us at the bar that night who was listening. Eventually Dan’s wife kicked him under the table and told him to let me finish eating my chicken. And that was that. We went back to talking about football or something.
Dan’s not a bad man. I wouldn’t even call him a racist, because I know how much that label hurts and believe in personal evolution and redemption (Although I did consider calling this post “The Embrace of a Racist” because I knew it would get more clicks). But he is the type of man that, if I encountered him on the internet, possibly though an opinionated comment on my blog, I would probably think hateful thoughts in my heart about him and all of the other people who contribute to making the world a worse place, even though I know that’s not true. Dan’s not a bad man. He’s just a man that disagrees with me. But that too is not the whole story.
When we went to leave the restaurant that night, knowing that it was the last time I’d see them before leaving for Haiti, Dan gave me a big ol’ man hug and told me, “Now you take care of yourself over there and know that I’ll be thinking about you a lot. And I’ll be praying for you too. I always do.”
And the beautiful thing was that I knew he meant it, with his whole heart. From the absolute deepest part of him, I felt the sincerity and allowed it to call out to the deepest part of myself where I knew that it made a difference to me to have his prayers behind me and feel his thoughts with me every day. Beyond the politics and the opinions and the people that we associate with and the cable news channels that we watch, I hold a deep gratitude to this man for the love that he shares with me. And I am happy to reciprocate it. When deep calls out to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.
Today I visited that waterfall that I shared a photo of in my last post. It’s one of the most famous places in Haiti and also considered to be one of the most spiritual. In the pool below the cascade they say the water is 87 feet deep. I wasn’t able to plunge into the water today because I’m still healing from the health issues that I had in the US, so I just sat on a rocky ledge across from the falls and listened beyond the roars of the water to hear the deep call out. The result, Gratitude. Peace. Strength.