Joy. It is the feeling I experienced today, mixed equally with gratitude, when I received the news over the phone from my neurologist’s nurse that the MRI I underwent three days ago showed “no acute change” in the pineal region of my brain where a ruptured benign brain tumor was removed fourteen years ago. It had been two years since my last MRI. The discovery of basal cell skin cancer on the side of my head this past fall (which has since been removed) raised concerns that adverse consequences might be surfacing from radiation treatments I received in the fall of 1998 to treat the pineal gland tumor. This heightened concern, in combination with a string of headaches I’ve been experiencing for a couple of weeks, had me on edge and fearing the worst leading up to and since the MRI. But, the news that I received today released, in me, a surge of gratitude for what I view very sincerely as a new lease on life. Its like I just came up from the bottom of the deep end of the pool and broke through the surface of the water, able to take in a chest full of oxygen that, just moments before, I wasn’t sure I would ever get close to again.
“Joy.” It is the word that the lead singer of Audio Adrenaline used repeatedly in a conversation that I had with him after his band’s concert in Gaffney, SC, two nights ago. The band was in Haiti last year to shoot a music video for the song “Kings & Queens” which can be heard frequently on Christian radio these days. The song is focused on the plight of orphans in Haiti, children who are living examples of what Jesus referred to in scripture as “the least of these.” What struck Kevin most during his time there was the utter joy exhibited by the children being served in the children’s villages of The Hands & Feet Project. He explained that, in comparison to the lives of Haitian children outside the reach of orphan care, the children currently being served by Hands and Feet are healthy, happy, and fully alive. Thanks to the Hands and Feet Project they are cared for, sheltered, educated, given health care, and raised in a loving, family-style environment that allows them to develop as children with the hope of a future.
The hope of a future, however, is simply not there for so many Haitian children who live in a country where only half of the population has access to clean drinking water and only half of Haitians fifteen years of age or older can read and write. Kevin described the prevalence of parents who sell their children off into the abandon them at the local hospital, sex trade, abandon them at the local hospital, or worse. A disproportionate number of adults drowning in the hopelessness that surrounds them in Haiti choose to commit suicide and take their children with them. We’re not talking about kids whose parents just can’t afford new Nikes for their child on the first day of the new American public school year. We’re talking about a a sizable population of children who are abandoned in a country where the odds are already stacked heavily against those who do parents. In Haiti only half of the adult population can read and write and only half have access to clean drinking water. Without outside help, the children who’ve been abandoned have no hope.
But, in a way that I would imagine is, at least, comparable to the gratitude that I felt and the joy that I experienced when I received the news today that my MRI was clear, the children taken in by the Hands and Feet Project experience the joy that comes with the security of a loving family environment on a daily basis. Compared to where they come to The Hands and Feet Project from, they, too, get a new lease on life and, according to Kevin, their own joy and gratitude is tangible and clearly evident in the children that he was able to spend time with. So much so that it was the defining characteristic that he chose to share with me when I asked him to tell me about his experience in Haiti.
Right now, though, The Hands and Feet Project is running at full capacity and can’t take in any more orphans than they already have. They are, however, working to expand and need any help that can be given to do so. Please visit The Hands and Feet Project’s website to learn more about what you can do to “be like Jesus to the least of these.”