What I’ve learned in Haiti about encouraging others
Jerilyn Cox worked with Samaritan’s Purse as a Medical/Maternal and Child Health Intern
When was the last time that you, unbidden, affirmed someone in your life? My mentor during college used to encourage us to “eulogize people while they’re still alive.”
It’s so easy for us to go through life with our heads down, inwardly focused on our own issues. If I’m not careful, that’s certainly my default. Several weeks ago I was worrying about future plans and talking with some of our Haitian staff when I received a poignant response.
“You know, we all have problems. We all have things we’re worried about. But God can, and WILL, take care of us.”
We were told that as kids. But somehow we lost sight of it as we got older and as our challenges changed.
The need for affirmation is abundantly apparent in international relief work. You live, work, and play with the same group of people, and we’re each a part of the collective support system that enables us to function well and do good work. So when we don’t encourage, or forget to affirm other people, that support breaks down.
As I prepare to leave somewhere, I tend to be extra affirming to the people that I will be leaving. It’s my reflexive way of making sure that relationships conclude on a positive note and that I don’t leave with any loose ends undone. It’s a habit that I’ve had for years, and it has the side benefit of encouraging me in return. In the past few weeks as I’ve concentrated on finishing well here in Haiti, it’s been a reminder to me to affirm more often than just when I’m leaving.
“When we see the good in people, and tell them that we see it, it changes lives,” my mentor once told me.
By offering regular encouragement to others, we validate them. And people light up when we share meaningful words.
I’m not an expert on affirming. But the last few weeks have been a good reminder for me to see people, not see through them or see them for how they can help me or serve me in some way. Community is never perfect because people aren’t perfect. We make messes that need fixing and holes in relationships that need mending. I’m so thankful that we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us because we certainly don’t have the strength to do this on our own. I’ve found that my ability to love others in my own strength can run out pretty quickly.
So I offer my broad affirmation and thanks to the staff members of Samaritan’s Purse Haiti. They welcomed me into their community for the last six months. It has been a privilege for me to work alongside all of them. I won’t forget their smiles and hugs, the moments shared in the kitchen or in the lounge, and their willingness to let themselves be known. I’ll certainly miss them.
The Samaritan’s Purse internship program is an opportunity for college students and recent graduates to use their skills to impact the world in a tangible way. Find out more here.