Up Close

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2016 14 Apr

an image of three friends, arm in arm

People were packed tight, elbowing for a place on the truck headed to Port-au-Prince. Chickens and bags of produce were crammed in alongside the human cargo. Yet another hurricane had struck Haiti, and people were talking about the worst-hit area, a city called Gonaïves, where two thousand people had died.

“I’m from Gonaïves,” a young man spoke up.

All eyes turned quickly to him, taking in the ragged shirt, the hair embedded with straw. He spoke of broken bodies lying in the street and of the struggle to find food and water. There were people still stranded on rooftops, homes filled with nothing but mud.

“These clothes,” he said, “I’ve been wearing them since last Saturday” (eight days previous).

As he talked, a middle-aged man reached into a plastic bag and handed him a white polo shirt. Then someone else gave him a T-shirt. Then another person offered a pair of green shorts, and another gave a comb, and someone else handed him a bar of soap. Then a woman held out a crumpled ten-goud bill (about 25 cents) and started saying, “Just give what you can. Five goud, ten goud, fifty goud, anything you can give to help him out.” She soon had a fist full of bills to hand to the young man, who by then was crying.

Before he could find the words to respond, they told him not to worry. “You didn’t even ask for anything; we just want to give. We’re all Gonaïvians now.”

Everyone on that truck was poor. Kent Annan, author of Following Jesus through the Eye of the Needle, observes, “Each person in the back of this truck must in some way battle, throw elbows, squeeze for what she or he needs. From a distance via the news, you wonder how anybody makes it. Up close you wonder too, but less so because you see the little things. You see the person beside you pass along ten gouds, a shirt, a bar of soap.”

The story makes me think of my own “up close” moments. What are the needs of the people around me? I want to notice them and give what I can. For it’s often in the up-close spaces where God can most reveal his love.

  • All quotes adapted from Ken Annan, Following Jesus through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009), 174-5.