Greeting the construction workers on the porch as I search for the key for my room, walking to the neighbor’s house or catching a tap-tap and hearing my name shouted across the street. High fiving and joking with the group of boys making their kites on the corner. Watching as a customer interacts with a bored looking Natcom worker, then the same worker looks up and gives me a big smile and asks how I’ve been, noting “Mwen pa we ou” (I don’t see you, common to say instead of “It’s been awhile” or “I miss you”).
It happened so fast, the realization as greetings, smiles, and kisses on the cheek combined for me to see it in ‘returning’ – the common saying we tell others here at CPR-3 – Your presence matters.
It’s so true, undeniable as I walk around Bercy. There’s a difference in the way I see it after a three week absence. Shouted to me through the body language of a five minute hug from mama, who lost her son the day before I left. In the “Mwen kontan” of family members while I just sit outside in their best chair visiting for a few hours in the shade of a mango tree on a hot afternoon (Gently saying “I’m happy” sitting here with you). I joke with the boys as they work with sticks and ripped bags about if they’re making one for me – the next day a kite is in the air and they say “this one is the one I made for you”.
Here’s the thing: This isn’t Haitian saying. Yes, it’s true and important to CPR-3, but it’s true wherever you’re reading too.
We forget too easily how important being there for people is in our American culture. Every time I’ve been to a soup kitchen, you know what meant most to people? Conversations after they finished eating. An outreach close to my heart – The Salvation Army Street Outreach for women working at night around Columbus – gives out care bags as the van stops for individuals. Which do you think matters more to the girl waiting for her next john, the bag or the fact that someone came up next to her to stand beside her, to ask her how she’s doing and let her know that someone sees her?
Where are you getting coffee in the morning? Are you improving the baristas day by your presence? Who are you living with – are you really WITH them? Giving them your best self after a long day? When you’re out with your closest friend after a long week, are you with them – or with your followers on Instagram? Your presence matters. Your presence can make a difference. There’s nothing special about me except that I’m here. There’s nothing I’ve done except come back.