Ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve convinced yourself that you’re in way over your head? You’re sitting there just waiting to be exposed for the interloper you are and the question “how on earth did I get myself into this?” keeps running through your mind.
Happened to me today.
Today was a day of celebration in Haiti – for us, for the people we work with, and hopefully, for the people we’re here to help. We spent the morning getting ready to show off the new areas of the hospital to the Minister of Health and the Canadian Ambassador. In typical Haitian fashion, everything was behind schedule and the degree of last-minute improvisation was comical – with literally minutes to spare, workers were still calmly painting, mopping, setting up chairs and erecting a plaque to commemorate the day. And their level of calmness was staggering – if this was my event back home I’d be losing my mind. Here, they meandered their way through the whole thing, dignitaries be damned. Given what these people go through day in and day out, it shouldn’t have surprised me that very little fazes them.
In the end though, they pulled it off.
And then, there I was sitting in front of over 100 people, at a table with our country’s Ambassador and several other dignitaries and it was my job to get up in speak (partly in French, even though I’m not bilingual) on behalf of our Canadian team.
And that’s when I felt it. How did this happen and why are they trusting me to do this?
But as I rose to speak, I looked out and the faces of 9 Canadians stared back at me. Over the course of the last several months these people have become my friends and I am in awe of their dedication to this project, their work ethic, and their endless supply of humanity. My uneasiness and self-doubt lasted only a moment – it was my fellow Canadians, and the nearly 100 other volunteers they represented that gave me strength to push through.
This was hardly my finest public speaking engagement. Between someone else interpreting my English, and my “functional” French as my new friend Greg put it, I got through without making a fool of myself. But that’s not the point I realize now.
Today, I was given the honour to represent over twenty years of tireless work on this island. It didn’t really matter what I said, or how I said it. What mattered is that we were here, and our small little group stood in solidarity with our Haitian friends and took the next step in what remains such a long journey.
There were smiles and optimism today. That’s what matters.