We are committed to honesty in our story telling. We believe that instead of slanting the message to "the target demographic", the more powerful thing is to be vulnerable. Our Stories are a reflection of who we are. The things we notice and the way we notice them, the way we remember the narrative, says a lot about a person or a culture. So here are Our Stories. They are beautiful because they are not perfect.
During my initial visit to Haiti, in 2004, i was changed by a specific situation that happened our first day in Port Au Prince. We were with a local missionary in her car when we were approached by a young mother holding a 10-11 month old baby. The woman spoke at length with Sherrie, our friend. and as we discovered afterwards, she was begging us to take her child.. Powerless to feed her, and with two more young ones at home, she was willing to give her away. I was stunned. Sherrie quickly explained, “please know, this woman no more WANTS to give her baby away than you would. She is desperate.” At that moment i tried to imagine how deep a desperation i would have to be feeling that i would hand my daughter, 4 years old at that time, to a stranger not knowing if i’d ever see her again. I call that my moment of “perfect moral clarity.” And i knew that i’d spend the rest of my life doing something so that less women on this planet feel that sense of desperation. Looking back, I realize 2ND STORY GOODS was conceived that day.
I drive down to Jubilee early this morning to work.
The well is open and there are many children and adults crowded around and carrying precious clean water back to their homes.
As I approach the house of Anite, I see two young girls coming with water. One has a 5 gallon bucket on her head…about 3/ 4 full. the other is younger, smaller and carries a 1 gallon container, not quite full, on her head. I am amazed, as I always am, at the carrying of water.
Why is it such a common thing among most of the world and such a foreign concept to me. My kids will well remember me threatening them, as they stood at the kitchen sink, when they complained about having to do the dishes after dinner. ” And how far did you have to carry that water with which you will wash those dishes? “ Oh the peril of being one of my kids!
Anite walks out to greet me with a kiss and we talk about an order of Daisies for today. Shout out to my friend Shelley Clay at Apparent Project, who ordered them from us! Oh the far reaches of that woman’s life of faith and beauty!
We stand outside Anite’s tiny thatch home, the one she moved into this past June. I reach down to fix the collar on the dress of the little girl standing there with Anite’s daughters. She tells me, that the little girl’s family has had many, many problems, they lived next door until recently they were forced to leave. The momma left with the baby and left this little girl behind. Alone.
Anite has taken her in.
She slays me.
Anite is a young widow with four kids of her own. She might weigh 75 pounds soaking wet. I wonder how many days she has gone without food to keep her children fed. Her girls look so healthy and bright eyed. Her youngest has severe water on the brain and many complications. He is five, he cannot talk, walk , see, sit up and he may not have much more time left here on planet earth. I believe he has been loved well by this momma. Her whole face lights up when she looks at him. She is a woman of faith. She is a woman fiercely determined to keep her family together and raise her kids well
So now she has taken in this young girl, maybe she is eight years old. She is so thin and small it is difficult to say. She has taken in another mouth to feed, another body to clothe, another child to hold when she cries.
She slays me.
She tells me that God will take care of them, that He promises to do that for those who care for those in need. So she does.
And I wonder why I am stuck on the Crazy Daisy idea. Why I keep thinking of more and more things to do with them. Made by Anite. Maybe that is why.
- Director, 9/13/2013
I see you Jesus
I love watching you sitting in the dirt with the little boys making cars out of oil cans…they fished them from the garbage dump, of course they did . and you sat there having the time of your life watching them workplay. Watching them look to your face for you approval…watching to see your eyes light up at what they made.
I love that look on your face Jesus…. I love how you love. I love a God that loves to sit in the dirt with the small men…the ones who are surely hungry and surely dirty and surely dressed in the highest of hopes for the smallest of things.
Jesus (you were looking like a UPS guy named Adam)
And Jesus,. Did you see him today…did you hear the one that said ”give this to momma” ?
Did it kill you like it did me? The small young one, as he got his small wage for his bottle cap art….as he handed it off to his little brother, take this to mama. Take this to mama. Not a second hesitation. Not a brief pause.
And he ran.
The others left and came back with bags of goodies…surely they were ready for that. But not that one.
Take this to Mama. ( Wisguey said )
And I saw you when You heard that our friend was bleeding badly. She lost the baby three days ago, She was 7 months along and full of hope. And today word came to you that she was bleeding. And you came. You had to know she was ok. You had to check and see. I love that way about you, ..walking around in the tall form of a nurse named Grace.
And I caught your beautiful reflection today when he said , “there are four of brothers and we all take care of the youngest, we have our entire lives…he said of their 24 year old brother that is living inside a body that won’t cooperate with his brain. “When we are there mom and dad don’t have to do anything, we do everything, I have changed more diapers than most any grandparent….i don’t mind ,” he said…and I saw your glory , your absolute glorious glory. His face has morphed into Yours. That blond headed soccer jock named Alex.
And I heard you say , I want all the sewing machines working as best as possible before I leave. I want to make sure for you. I can do this for you . And I heard the kindness and concern that has action attached to it.. and I saw that you remember me. You remember us everyday. We are never forgotten by you. Beautiful you hiding out in the skin of my Tennessee bound friend Kerry.
And I saw you stand at the kitchen sink and wash stack after stack of dirty dishes. I saw you stand there, doing the thankless task so that a mama could go into the other room and listen to her boy bat on his guitar. I saw you Jesus, you tried to disguise yourself as the Pakistani/Romanian/Ohioan kid named Robbie, but you know how good I am at catching you in your many disguises. I see you .
HAND BRAIDED RUG STORY
Hand Braided Rugs Story
By the women in my yard.
Two mommas from Jubilee.
So, they show up with large black bags ... bulging black bags.
And they begin to pull from these bags some gorgeous colorful mats...hand woven lovely pieces, almost perfect...but not quite.
And the problem is , in the room behind me i have approximately 70 similar pieces...not exactly placemats , maybe bath mats...but until they are altered...we can't quite use them,..nor will we be able to sell them.
So as clearly and tenderly as possible, i explain what they need to do to "fix " these beautiful pieces...suggesting they haul them back home and "range sa",( fix them) and bring them back in a few days and we can buy them.
i don't think so.
Not leaving this yard ... no we are not.
"bring me some twoll / fabric" they said.
I obeyed, ran upstairs to the linen closet ( fabric supply getting low) and found a clean sheet about the right shade. Began tearing into strips. Obediently. Like, you really don't mess with a Haitian Momma willing to sit here and work until she can take money/food home to her family.
So here we sit. Even now. I am sitting on the driveway. Only able to type because i have obediently prepared the strips of cloth they needed. And while i watch them work ( i would help but my skills are sorely lacking for anything but tearing strips of cloth)...and i chit chat, and watch...i am a little bit in awe.
they are beautiful ,really. The pieces . They are odd and they are wild and if i had a shabby chic beach house i'd have to have one....or maybe i had a dorm room or maybe my daughter did....anyway...we'll take our chances...i have a feeling we won't be disappointed.
and they are beautiful...these women holding me hostage on my driveway.
God sees them. He knows. They matter so much , that to hold this busy white lady hostage on her own driveway is really no big deal.
He loves them.
And the white lady will pay them tonight.
( i love my life)
The Pendant Story:
We visited a man that makes aluminum cooking pots for his living. He has a small thatch hut on the very outskirt of the village Jubilee. His domain is easily identifiable by the black soot that surrounds the ground where he works.
We find this sinewy man, (though he appears ancient., in truth I am most likely his senior by at least ten years, maybe I also appear ancient? ) He is stoking the fire that burns hot. He uncovers the chamber holding the melting cans and stirs to see if the liquid is ready.
Watching him silently.. meticulously working his craft, stirs my soul. ,
We peer into the simple thatch building where he has frames laid out on the dirt floor , the fine dirt holds the forms for the liquid metal to be cast. Again, silently, with confidence, he works, skimming the dirt gently at first, then pounding it down until it is ready
I should admit here that I am somewhat on a quest to investigate possibilities for small business ventures to help the widows and young women in the community provide for their families. I am thinking….can this man make pendants for jewelry? Can we set some mommas and teenage girls up in a Jewelry making business?
Every day School Opening draws nearer, we have more kids and their parents asking for help to pay $400 Haitian dollars…roughly $50 US, plus there are books to buy and uniforms to have made. Shoes and proper undergarments to find…Call it roughly 75.00 USD. A lot of money in one lump sum.
A side note here….many of us are deeply moved by the Justice issue of human trafficking. We know in the core of our being that everything about human beings being bought and sold for another persons dark intentions is WRONG in every moral sense of the word. What we may not realize is that it is proven that one of the best ways to protect young girls from being trafficked is to keep them in school. And going to school is relatively expensive all over the world.
So I pray, I think. I try to imagine business plans that work here, where there is no running water or electricity. I wonder how we keep pushing forward for a way of life that is beyond the daily acceptance of things like diarrhea that kills, sexual abuse and children that literally fill their bellies with dirt cookies to stave off hunger.
It is at this point in our visit that one of the young men in our entourage picks up one of the finished pots stacked loosely in the mud at our feet and says “ I love Jesus” and I say what? He points to the side of each pot, the man has ‘engraved’ I (heart) Jesus on each piece.
I ask HOW does he get the impression in the mold….( ever thinking business…designs….words….) But he answers WHY he puts the impression in the mold. “Jesus is the one who gives me the courage to keep going”.
He smiles a deeply authentic smile and nods my way.
HE is talking to me. And. I kind of get it. Take courage. Keep going. Wrongs are not made right without a battle. This really is what it looks like on the ground. Messy and beautiful. This guy preached me a good sermon in those few words….and I am grateful.
THE ROSETTE STORY
Something about being with the deaf. It’s like entering another country ... again.
First of all, the class is full of students, all ages 12 year old boys to 20 year old men and 15 year old girls. Everyone is engaged in figuring out the best way to make the pieces we are working on , most folks are talking , some shouting …
it is silent in the room…
(except for a few outburst of laughter and beating on the desk to get the white lady’s attention.)
Eeerie, but I kind of like it.
Physical space, which, again, for the record, in Haiti is entirely different than the culture where I grew up..
Basically, once you are a friend. ( which is a huge compliment) you no longer are bothered by all that extra empty space surrounding your body. If we are talking, we are touching, your arm across my lap,my hand on your shoulder or at the very least we are holding hands.
Physical Space , I think is even further reduced in the environment of the deaf because without the non physical piece , called sound, most communication must be seen or felt.
SO clearly if I have stepped on the thread you dropped,. It is much more efficient to reach down , grab my foot, and move it than to try to sign to me ,.. " hey miss white lady, please could you get your lovely dusty sandaled foot off of my thread !”
It's a little awkward at first, having an almost stranger reach down and pick up your foot, expectantly. But I kind of like it. Again, it just eliminates all that bulky personal space.
Honestly it takes my breath away at how quick they are to pick up new ideas. It is like their minds are working way more quickly than i can get out what is in mine.
The other day when I came in with fabric to braid, to begin working on the Rosette Idea, we were still sorting out the pieces to put together when this young man began hammering a piece of wood with nails across it to the classroom wall.
It took me a minute to realize what he was doing,
He had seen what we were going to do, gone outside, found wood to attach their strips to make it perfect for braiding...he did it and was nailing it to the wall...before i finished the explanation...See what i mean?
We return today to see what has been done with the material we left.
They may have come up with goods i have not yet dreamed of.
i can't wait.
She works with such intensity. I watch her face as she sews. There is a heavy calm there. as if she has mastered the art of carrying the weight of her world on her tiny shoulders.
i met her when Grace and Keziah brought her to the workshop. " hey mama k. please meet this wonderful mom, might you have work for her? " In her arms she carried her 5 year old son, born with severe hydrocephalic symptoms. Beautiful eyes set in a very large head. I took him from her arms, stunned by his weight, his body so tiny, yet with the extra fluids on his brain, he is so very heavy. "how does this tiny woman ( she can't be a ounce over 75 pounds herself ) carrry him ? "
People are often superstitious about kids born with special needs. I can only imagine what this young mom has experienced in the past 5 years, carrying this child in her arms.
Can you sew? yes. come sew this for me. ok.
It was lovely the way the sewing group welcomed her and him, after some honest questions....they handed her needle and thread, showed her how to place the tags together and welcomed her into our tiny, close knit circle. ( my heart nearly burst with gratitude ).
She hand-stitched two small pieces of fabric together, the "tags" we are adding to all our bags. They say DIGNITY....POSSIBILITIES....PEACE....HOPE. This seems right. So right , that she would take this job.
Her son is the youngest of four children. His father died ( went missing ? ) during the flood in Gonaives in 2008. She has raised these four children ( somehow ) on her own.
i remember when our first four sons were young....they were healthy, walking. i had electricity, and a washing machine, running water, easy food, a secure house, a vehicle and a husband to share the load and hold me in his arms and make me feel loved and beautiful even when i was worn out... she does not. I am in Awe of her.
Each week she comes and delivers the pieces she took home to sew. I pay her for her work, re load her with more tags. Now, she sits a while, enjoying the sweet comraderie in our warm little sewing room, before she heads back home, her tiny purse bulging. i feel certain it is one of the most important things i do in my life. And it is so so so small.
I recently gave her a ride home. Off the road, we walked through a very narrow alley, behind a nice house. It was a small coutyard with a few families living together. She confided in me that she has to move. Someone has let her stay in this room/house...and it has become a troubling situation ...they want her out and she feels her kids are unsafe. She wants to move into jubilee with them.
What ? i really question her on this. jubilee is not for the faint of heart ! ha ! She says she has peace.
My beautiful friend, Vonette , died last week ( haven't been able to write about it, just yet, too much wrapped up in that ) She left her tiny rock house. The famiy is selling it to pay for the funeral expense.
We may have a new family in the neighborhood.
Her name is Anite. Pray that they will be accepted in and that Jubilee will rise to this...and prove the goodness of God in the midst of this place. Her two oldest daughters are in school and will have a good long walk each day, pray for their safety and their ability to make new friends here. Pray the ladies welcome her and kindness will smash jealousy to pieces ! New patterns of grace and compassion established !
SO I WAS THINKING ABOUT A TATTOO, (DONT FREAK OUT).
A, “Learn Love”, tattoo, but I can’t decide where to put it…
This phrase comes from lyrics by Shawn McDonald, “What are you man, if you do not learn love?”. And I though I’ve known it for years, lately it’s been stuck in my head.
Because the truth is, no matter how hard we work or how many jobs we create or how successful 2nd Story Goods becomes…it matters not, if we don’t learn love.
At the end of the day, Love is the matter that shifts things. Not jobs, not food, not successful projects. Love.
So I was thinking about a tattoo, (dont freak out).
If I could just write it on my body somewhere that I would see it constantly. So I don’t forget.
Like every minute of every day, that would help me keep the main thing, the main thing.
And I would remember… but I can’t decide where to put it…
Maybe my fingers? (I’ve heard tattoos on fingers really hurt) (I really don’t like pain)
So in the mean time, I wear this necklace, and in the heat of a discussion, or when I imagine doing something easier than this, I can reach up and grab hold of this reminder.
(dont freak out)
~ Kathy Brooks, Haiti March 2014