15 August 2012

Water Thieves

I'm standing on my red rug at the kitchen sink, washing a cereal bowl, gazing at my security wall. David's sitting with me, keeping me company...but he didn't see her. Just a glimpse over the wall. Our eyes met momentarily, and she disappeared. I wasn't totally surprised to see her, but I stifled a yell just the same.

The house over that wall is empty--no one lives there. Or rather, no one's supposed to live there. According to another neighbor, people have been stealing things like toilets from the house ever since the back security wall started sliding into the ravine, creating a gap. We call it the "crack house," because of all the damage it sustained during the earthquake. It's uninhabitable, yet there it stands.

And last week, someone figured out that they're still getting city water...so now, every time the water comes on, I hear them over there. Filling their plastic buckets. Bathing. Splashing. Talking, gossiping, laughing, and basically, having a big ol' party over there.

And while washing a cereal bowl, I argue with myself. It goes something like this:

You should go yell at them. They're trespassing--they have no right to be there. 

But they're thirsty. Water is life here, and we've had almost no rain. Through a lapse of bureaucracy, you get your water for free, same as them.

That's different. I tried to pay for my water, but they wouldn't bill me. 

How is it different? Because yours goes straight into your cistern and they have to carry theirs? 

It's different because I'm not stealing it. They're thieves. I'd call the cops on them in the States. 

The cops here would just laugh at you, even if you did. What would it accomplish? 

It's about justice. And they're bugging me with their inconsiderate jibber jabber.

They're bugging you. That's really it, isn't it? Would you repay evil for evil?

It's still wrong.

Maybe. But you're an ambassador of grace. Grow your patience. Don't be selfish. Treat them how you'd want to be treated, in the same situation.

It's still wrong. 

Build a bridge and get over it. 

Still wrong.  

Eventually, that's the logic I can't argue with. It's wrong...but that doesn't mean I should get involved. It's wrong...but public utilities people and the landlord don't care enough or don't have the capacity to do anything about it. "It's wrong" is a fact I find I have to sit with a lot here. "It's wrong" is part of life, here and everywhere...but Haiti's feel heavier to me. Carrying the wrongs you can't right wears out your hope, like your sandals at the end of summer. It shows you why people gets discouraged here...why it seems like they don't care. They did care, at one time. They really did.

 And just as our cisterns are sacred here, so is encouragement. We've had some fresh infusions of it lately, especially in the form of out-of-town guests, and they truly stirred my soul. They reminded me that it's okay to call Haiti "hard." They reminded me that our efforts matter. They showed me that when we place our lives in God's hands, he can multiply our efforts beyond our expectations or imaginations.

And for that refreshment, I'm grateful...even if I have to listen to water thieves while I wash dishes.

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