“Become the bright light for others, when their world becomes dark” ~Anthony Douglas Williams
When I was in Haiti we visited a prison in the city of Jeremie. I’ll be honest, when I first heard of this I was a bit nervous. We were bringing meals and serving them. But when I learned that most of these people were put there for very petty crimes (like stealing a bicycle or food) and were being treated terribly, my tone changed. And then I scolded myself for even thinking bad of these people to begin with.
I kept hearing God say to me “be the light for those who only see the dark”. And I knew then that what I was about to experience would stay with me for a very long time. We were not allowed to take pictures there, understandably so, especially considering the conditions in which these people were living in. I wanted to cry at the smell and the sights I was seeing, but I held it in and stayed strong for people who did not have much strength left. It reminded me of when I visited Elmina, Ghana and we toured the castle. We were told about slaves being put into a small room and how crowded it was…..30-40 people in a room that you would guess could fit 8-10. That they would sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom all in this dark forsaken place. The room I saw with bars on it in Haiti, much like the one I saw in Elmina…..was no exception. I saw the prisoners hands reach out through the thick steel bars, I saw their eyes so full of pain and exhaustion peeking through the little bits of sunlight hitting their worn and weathered faces. My heart sank. The smell was like nothing I had ever experienced before. There were times that members of our group had to take a break to the side of a building just to escape it. Tears started to well up in my eyes, not just because they were reacting to the scent of buckets filled with urine and feces that the prisoners shared, or the stench of sweat and unwashed clothes veiling through a wall of heat like I have never experienced before…..but because my heart felt so heavy for them. I could feel their own heaviness in the weight they were carrying on their shoulders and in their hearts. I took a break when I felt that pain enter because I couldn’t display it to them. Not today, not now.
We set up an assembly line where we had a hot meal in a foam container for each of them, along with cold drinks, snacks, and a smile to let them know that there were people who still cared despite their circumstances or their choices. Each one was more appreciative than the next. Each person smiled at us. Each was thankful and gracious.
I was so filled with light to share. I was in charge of giving out bags of peanuts and we started playing “catch” when one prisoner gestured for me to throw it to him and we laughed together, then I started it with all of the others when they gestured as well. Their faces lit up from each corner of their mouths and every single one said “thank you”. I just wanted to share a little fun, some happiness in the smallest of gestures…because we are human beings after all (and well, I am pretty good at playing catch).
I share this story with you so that you too can be the light in the darkness. You can set an example and share your own light with those who need it most, even in the smallest and seemingly insignificant ways. So you can see that the world is only changed by your example, not by your opinion. That we are very good lawyers of our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of others. And to not judge others for the choices they make when you don’t know what options they had to choose from.