These are the words of Jean Marc. He gave me this nugget of information with his broken English after I had dealt with a particularly difficult situation in our school in Haiti. As I was working to bring truth to the forefront I came against some resistance, and Jean Marc did not want me to give up but to continue to work for justice and fairness and to be loyal to my cause.
Jean Marc knows a thing or two about life not being easy but choosing what is good and right. He was born with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, which leaves his joints disfigured and causes extreme pain when he walks.
The disease affects 1 in 10,000 newborns and many of those begin to receive treatment as soon as they are born. The disease is not curable, however, there are ways to alleviate some of the pain for younger patients. Jean Marc, however, did not see a doctor until he was 21 years old and by then it was too late for any kind of treatment.
His family lives in a rural village in Haiti where 100% of the population farms (often on the sides of steep mountains) and sells their goods in the capital city of Port au Prince, which is a 15 mile walk down the mountain.
Jean Marc knows that he will never be able to farm with his condition so he gives everything he has to his education….but what does that look like in Haiti? Handicapped buses? A wheelchair to get around? Special considerations during tests because he needs to get up and move around during tests because of the pain? Physical and occupational therapy? None of the above.
It means he gets up at 5 AM to get to the road at 6 AM so he can get on a tap tap (basically a truck with benches in the back) before all the other students. School starts at 8 AM. He does not eat lunch most days. I got this text from him yesterday:
Hi friend! How are you? I’m not too well, because l have a pain in my abdomen , it’s very very harm.
Do I tell him the pain is from hunger? I don’t think my mouth can form those words….they are too hard for me to say. He is my son and I would do anything to make sure my boys do not go without…..but sometimes he does and I cry myself to sleep over it some nights.
But Jean Marc knows that his education is more important than anything, even food. He has amazing people here in the US who help with his education and for that he is so grateful. But he has to choose books over rice and beans. How many of us would do that? Not many. But Jean Marc gets it- his schooling will pay off in the end even if the pain in his abdomen now feels unbearable.
Jean Marc then gets home after 6 PM because he has to wait for all the other students to get on the tap taps before he can make his way on. By then his body is exhausted….but anytime I call him in the evening he is studying. He studies on vacation days, holidays….anytime he can. He craves knowledge.
And when he is not studying, he is making baskets for us to sell in the US to help pay for those tap taps he has to take everyday. They are not free.
Many people in Jean Marc’s situation would have turned to begging on the street, giving up, or finding illegal ways to make money. Many would have an entitled, bitter attitude because of this hard life. Jean Marc? Not a chance. Does he suffer and struggle? Absolutely. He has looked at me through tear stained cheeks many times and told me the pain is almost unbearable and life is so difficult. We have cried together over the suffering he endures but at the end of the day, he never gives up. He stays the course. He perseveres. Like he said…”When you make well, it is not easy.”
And so when the battery dies on my iPhone or my kids don’t like any of the 5 kinds of cereal in the pantry….I have perspective. And that perspective is Jean Marc.
I don’t see anything the same since I have met him. I cringe at the mentality of so many Americans who are never content. Nothing is ever enough. Even the poorest in America do not know Haiti poor. Here we have free education, free lunches, and free transportation for our students. In Haiti they have none of these. Education is expensive and impossible for many. If they can afford school, lunch is quite possibly out of the question. And transportation is called walking hours for many unless you cannot physically make it like Jean Marc.
So what can we take away from taking a small glimpse into the window of Jean Marc’s life? Be thankful we are not him and don’t suffer like he does? I don’t think so. I believe we take a long, hard look at ourselves, how we react to hardship, how we raise our children, and how we treat others and we decide to gain a new perspective. One filled with perseverance and a commitment to “make well” even when it is “not easy.” Choosing to do what is good and right and just no matter the cost. As we change, the world will be different. I truly believe that.