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Summer 2022 newsletter

 

Jill Foster, Haiti

Darcy (wrapped foot) and Labon (solid blue shirt) enjoy food during a Zanmi Zanmi (Forever Friends) outing

The Good Samaritan Home, a home for older people and those living with disabilities, recently welcomed a new resident. His name is Darcy. While Darcy has some mental issues, the reason why he came into the home was because a car ran over his legs, breaking both of them terribly. Darcy has had several infections and gone through a few operations since then. Thankfully, it seems that he will be able to walk again and leave the home.

Darcy is a pretty active and robust person, with a strong voice and muscled arms. After hearing about what happened to him, I expected a bit of irritation and sadness when we met for the first time. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Darcy speaks to me with a strong voice and a positive attitude, expressing his gratitude to God for the home and for taking care of his medical needs and expenses. He even finds plenty of energy and spirit to sing his favorite hymns — much to the chagrin of his roommate and other residents, as Darcy will often sing at the top of his lungs when he can’t sleep at night.

Jacques and Jill taking a rest in the tree nursery at the Jean Marie Vincent Center in Grepen

Darcy has a great sense of joy. Not to be mistaken with happiness, I believe joy is a celebration of life, even in suffering, the way Darcy lives. It’s the way we embrace all things with positivity, good humor and a light heart.

Joy is a tremendous gift from God and takes a lot of practice, but once we can embrace joy fully, our burdens become lighter. Some great examples of joy are St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Mary Joseph, the foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters. They inspire me to look at my own life and how joyfully (or not) I live it.

I know I could do better at living joyfully. It’s easy to complain when, after a long day, I just want to go home but can’t because it’s raining really hard. It’s easy to feel as if you’re melting in the sun and brush other people away to just get to your destination.

I often feel like an open book. As I try to be an honest and genuine person in both my actions and words, it’s pretty easy to tell when I’m tired or annoyed. When that happens, I try to avoid social interactions as much as I can so as to not bring others down, but I could do better. It takes practice to breathe and just take in the rain and the sun as they are and accept them not with happiness, but with joy. Feelings are allowed, but it’s important to learn how to reorient and let go if the moment calls for it.

Sauveur, Rosanna and Jekale painting pictures at Maison Bon Samaritain

Darcy is not the only one whom I see practicing joy. Another resident and dear friend, Sauveur, also does a great job at living joyfully. The way he does it is not obvious or over-the-top since he is quiet in general, but he always welcomes me warmly, gives me a hug, and listens to me with a smile. He is suffering in his own right and still pretty young, yet he always has time to help others.

Along with Sauveur, the women in the kitchen and my co-workers at Grepen often greet me with a boisterous “Bonjou!” and ask me how I am. As I am often tired, I usually respond with a more mellow, but no less warm, “bonjou” back. There is joy in the way that Haitians joke around with each other and how they interject energy into their words, confident and unabashed. Making a little effort toward positivity can create real positivity and lighten the burden.

It is a struggle sometimes to practice joy in Haiti. Haiti is hot, and many people have to go without. However, that is what makes joy all the more beautiful. It shines through the suffering.

Joy is greater than happiness. The feeling of being happy comes and goes, but joy can last. You can be unhappy and still joyful. With joy, unhappiness might fade into something better, something more beautiful and lasting.


Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!

 

Jill Foster Jill Foster
Jill Foster began serving as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Haiti in January 2020. She currently works at the tree nursery of the Jean Marie Vincent Center in Grepen.