They had the faith

And Moses said, “Dear God, please send someone else.”

The times I respect my parents the most is when they are working with their literacy nonprofit, The Reading Room. Not love them the most, or like them the most, or appreciate them the most. But through all of our fights and difficulties in my post-university life, I can always step back from our conflict, look at their work in Haiti, and think, “These people are ridiculous. I’m so glad they’re mine.”

My dad went to Haiti for the first time in 1991. He was 32 years old. He technically wasn’t supposed to go to Haiti at all – he was supposed to sit in on a meeting for my mother. But when he returned home that night, he was signed up to go on the trip. My dad showed up in Haiti and some small part of his brain went, “I can make this better.”

That’s audacity. What 32-year-old shows up in a foreign country where he doesn’t understand the culture, the political situation, or the language and thinks “I can make this better?” And what 32-year-old goes home to his wife after the trip – and she agrees that truly the only reasonable thing to do is to dedicate a huge chunk of their lives to working in Haiti to improve education? What kind of people have the confidence to do that? What kind of people have the faith that it’ll work out?

And that’s the annoying thing – they had the faith. I called them Sunday morning hoping I would get a story about their fear and terror, how they felt incompetent at the amount of work they would have to do, how like Moses, they wished that God would call someone else. I thought I could write a great reflection based on that. I could write a brilliant reflection based on how great things can come out of self-doubt.

My parents did not cooperate with that narrative.

Sure, there were many times they did feel incompetent and overwhelmed, like Moses. Their nonprofit, The Reading Room, focuses on bringing literacy to Haiti. In the beginning, they thought it would be enough to just bring books. But you need more than books – you need to overcome cultural realities. Two middle class Caucasian Americans thought they could come into Haiti with solutions – and really, they have only ever gone into Haiti with ideas and have listened closely and followed the lead of the teachers there. They have gone back to Connecticut knowing they needed to do more and do better. The books couldn’t just be in French, they had to be in Creole as well for beginning readers. Bringing books to Haiti is important, but if you’re also not providing funding for meals, the kids won’t be able to focus on learning and reading. Unless you provide some sort of light source, the kids won’t be able to do their schoolwork at night.

I did not find this incompetence interesting or inspiring. This sort of incompetence and learning was just a fact of my childhood. My mom going to Florida for a college Creole course when I was 15 wasn’t an inspiring tidbit – it’s what my mom did when I was 15. Sunday morning, I did not find this worthwhile to write about. I wanted to write about the terror of the idea, the terror of the first moment when they knew that Haiti would be part of their lives forever.

Except apparently, this didn’t exist. I find “We trusted God” stories to be annoying and holier than thou – and imagine feeling that way when you talk to your parents.

But then I thought about the passage about Moses some more. What was Moses scared of, exactly, in this passage? He was scared about public speaking. Maybe he was also scared of going back to Egypt and doing the right thing. But in this specific passage, he is afraid he is not eloquent enough to deliver God’s message.

Because a lot of the time we aren’t afraid of the big picture – we’re afraid of the small details. My ideals and my goals and my aspirations; I don’t really worry about those things. For those of you that know me, not worrying about something is a big deal. But I’m constantly worried about small details. About how I’m going to get there. How I’m going to do what I think is morally right. And, of course, to answer these worries – God provides other people, so we don’t have to go through life alone. The Aarons.

Aaron helped Moses deliver the message to Pharaoh. Teachers, principals, and pastors, these are the Aarons that have helped my parents understand Haiti. My parents weren’t afraid of the idea of working in Haiti, but they have been worried that they’re going about it the right way. Or maybe my parents are the Aarons in this metaphor – the people in Haiti have always known what they needed, and my parents have just showed up to help.

Because, at the end of the day, the solution to incompetence, anxiety, and fear is love. It is when we are surrounded by other people, helping us, that we do our best work and live our best lives.

— Sarah Wicks


  1. Reply
    Beth says:

    Sarah, I appreciated this reflection a lot — your honesty in talking about the story of your parents, your willingness to leave loose ends (because real stories are always incomplete and full of questions) and the way you wove this personal history into the story of Moses. Thank you.

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