Empty Rhetoric

Two years ago today, on August 11, 2010 (the Feast of St, Clare of Assisi), I landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was my fourth trip to the chronically impoverished nation since just weeks before the earthquake that killed over 300,000 people and left a more than a million people homeless. But this trip was different because I was going to intentionally live in a massive slum, living without running water or electricity…and with rats. It was a truly transformative experience. What follows is a journal entry I scribbled soon after my return home.

I’ve filled up many frames and minutes of my films, many chapters and pages of my books, with words about poverty. So much of what I have written is merely empty rhetoric because I really was far removed from the brutal reality of chronic poverty, experiencing it from behind the safety of a camera and the shelter of a hotel. Even living for two weeks fully immersed in the life of the poor in a Haitian slum was not a true experience of poverty because I had a plane ticket out and a credit card in my wallet; I could go home or to a hotel whenever I wanted to escape the misery and protracted trauma. But it did give me a much clearer idea of just how terrible the lives of the poor are. Life in the slums and tent cities of Haiti is saturated with violence and boredom. Basic human dignity is snuffed out by the constant struggle to survive each day. It’s hard to imagine living a life without hope, and having to face on a daily basis absolute insecurity and complete vulnerability. How can we truly know and understand what it is like to live with constant degradation, desperation, uncertainty and hopelessness? After being home for only three days, I had already began to slip back into my comfortable and orderly world where I do not have to give a thought to food and water…even though, by the standards of my society, I am a poor man. The mere fact that I had options placed me far above the Haitians with whom I was living.

After that trip, I returned to Haiti five more times to complete my epic documentary film, Mud Pies & Kites, which is now available from my ministry, Pax et Bonum Communications, for a suggested donation of $30. All proceeds from the Haiti film will go toward the completion of my new film set in a refugee camp in Kenya. To view scenes from the Haiti film, visit the Pax et Bonum Channel on You Tube. Here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/user/PeBcomm?feature=mhee

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1 Response to “Empty Rhetoric”


  1. 1 John & Linda McElaney August 11, 2012 at 11:37 am

    How do I order Mud Pies & Kites?


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