It was a presentation made to an OAC class at a local high school, here in Waterloo. They had been studying the cycles of family and were interested in hearing of family life in Haiti. I had titled the presentation “What Memory Runs Through.” Families in Haiti are not all that different than families in Canada, or here in the Waterloo Region, for that matter. They, like us, wish for a peaceful, productive life of well-being. They like to work. They want to be able to feed their children. They want their children to be healthy. They want somewhere to go when they are sick or hurt. They want to go to school. They want a place of worship.
What makes families in Haiti different? Indeed, what makes any family different are the memories that run through.
There is a story here for the children of Waterloo Region. It begins in 1516 when Martin Luther posts his 95 thesis on the door of the University of Wittenberg. It was the cannon shot of the Reformation, the birth of Anabaptism, the seed of Mennonitism. It is a powerful chronicle of faith and spiritual fervour for which no price was too high to pay. From Germany, Switzerland, to Holland and Russia, Mennonites fled, settled, and fled again, finally finding refuge in places like Waterloo County. Memories of faith are the fabric of this region, now one of the most fertile and agriculturally productive pockets of Ontario.
What a contrast to the memories of Haitians that are rooted in greed. Betrayal, murder, rape, unconscionable brutality launched a slave trade in the Caribbean that would scar generations. Fear, lack of identity, low self-esteem, sense of powerlessness; trademarks that disabled an entire nation to be productive, to believe in a tomorrow.
What memories run through?
These two stories move me greatly. The first, because I am a child of that noble history of faith. The second, because I know children of fear. Haiti connects them both. Haiti is where we hold hands, where we listen and learn and share; where faith meets fear and rises above. When one sees the harvests of potatoes and beans and carrots, it is faith in living colour.
by Betsy Wall