Confession # 6: My Teenage Girls Really Do Have Beauty & Grace
They wandered up to my house, all five of them. They looked suspicious, mischievous, wanting. Uh, oh. “What is it, ladies?” I asked them, bracing myself for the answer. “It isn’t anything bad,” one of them shyly replied. “We just want to go to the beach,” another chimed in.
The beach? Oh. That’s it?
We stood there for a while, the five of them and me. Although we live just a few short miles from the beach, most of the coastline here is pretty filthy. To go to a nice, clean beach means you need money and a vehicle- neither of which our girls have- meaning, they had a dilemma!
I asked them how they planned on paying for their trip, curious to see if they had even thought of a plan. They had. “We thought we would ask you for the money,” one of them quickly responded. I smiled, trying not to laugh. “Well, I don’t have money for you to go to the beach, so you need to come up with another plan,” I kindly let her know. “We could ask our sponsors,” another one suggested. I was waiting for this idea to make its way into the conversation, but the girls knew it wasn’t going to fly with me. All I had to do was give my I don’t think so look and they quickly moved off the subject. And then the light bulb I had been waiting for went off: “We could earn the money to go,” one of them said bashfully, as if she feared the backlash of her friends for suggesting such an idea (After all, she was sitting on the ledge of my balcony). But to her surprise all the girls jumped in agreement, “Yeah we earn the money. Just give us some jobs. PLEASE!” I told them I would think about it and we moved on to the next topic of discussion.
A few days later, I did give the girls some jobs. With a laundry pile miles high, a dirty house, and the in-laws on their way for a visit the girls’ help was much needed. And let me tell you, they earned every dollar I paid them. I’m pretty sure I gave them every article of clothing, sheet, towel, and carpet in my house to wash. When they cleaned my house, they even cleaned my concrete windows and my floor fans- something I will embarrassingly admit I have never done once since moving to the upstairs apartment last fall (I don’t like cleaning, okay?). And did I mention they washed my clothes in the rain, for three days…IN THE RAIN! That’s devotion! These ladies wanted to go to the beach, badly.
Hunter and I agreed to take the girls to the beach on Saturday. Before we left, however, we paid each one of them for their work. We paid them according to their time and effort and then told them they were responsible to pay for their day at the beach: entrance fees, food, drinks, and anything else they may need. The only thing we would provide would be transportation. A little hesitant, but slightly excited for the responsibility, they agreed.
Seeing our girls pay for their entrance to the beach and their own food for the day, taking their money out of their wallets, and using money they had earned for a day they so badly wanted:
They were so proud
They were dignified
They were young women
They were independent
They were beautiful.
Our day at the beach was an interesting one to say the least. We all took away some valuable life lessons from the day. Here were our top three favorites:
Beach Day Life Lessons
1. The Value of the Dollar
The girls learned the value of the dollar as they had to learn to manage their money. The food at the beach we were visiting was too expensive for their budgets and therefore they all had to take a taxi boat to the neighboring village to buy lunch. Yes, Hunter and I had extra money in our pockets we could have lent them, which would have been easier, which would have made them happier. But, what would that have taught them? Nada. Expect that Americans are always there to give them what they want when they want it. Nope, we wanted them to learn that they have to live within the money they can earn. Were they mad at us? Not at all. Actually, going to the village next door was their idea. So if that sounds harsh, please know that they were A-okay, happy, and came back with boxes full of fish, rice, beans, and boiled plantains.
2. Stuff Doesn’t Last but Good Friends Do
See the pretty photo above of me with the girls? Rewind in time about 30 seconds and Josie’s cell phone just fell in the water- meaning that smile on her face is completely fake all thanks to Kencia pinching her side. As most teenage girls, Josie is non-stop on her cell phone. Whether she is listening to music, taking calls, or texting, she is addicted to her little Natcom phone, which is now full of salt-water. Hunter rescued the remains for her, but Josie was forced to spend the day at the beach with her friends, cell-phone distraction free. Moral of the day for Josie- phones can go in a flash, but good friends are there to stay, so focus on them instead.
3. Christian Women Should Stand Out
So while we were at the beach we were accompanied by a few rather large groups of young adults from southern Haiti. Both groups thought they were destined for a day at Labadee (Private resort leased to Royal Caribbean). Little did they know, however, that they would not be allowed to enter unless entering from the cruise itself. So they played on our beach instead. And considering I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV growing up (strict parents), yesterday was the closest thing I have ever seen to one of MTV’s spring break specials. It was crazy. From the music to the dancing to the…well…you understand. And then there were our girls- playing in the water in their one-piece bathing suits and shorts, joking around, ignoring the boys, and standing out like stars in a black sky. Hunter and I stood on the sidelines and watched our girls for a while, in awe of how different they were from the other girls around them. They were Christians and it was obvious to everyone. We watched as boys approached them. I got in my “ready to attack” position just in case, but they girls never needed me. They wanted nothing to do with these boys. I watched them motion the boys off as if they were disgusted to even talk to them. It was quite comical. I saw them stare at the girls in string bikinis dancing on the sandy beach. For a minute I feared they would be tempted to copy their moves for attention, but within seconds they were shaking their head, turning their backs, and then off to play in the water again. Yesterday, our girls stood out as Christian women in a crowd full of people who are of the world. And they did it with such grace, and it was beautiful. Some people may think it was bad judgment for us to allow them to stay in that environment for a few hours, but we kinda wanted to test them, and honestly they proved ready. They have been sheltered within the orphanage walls for so long and yesterday their faith was tested up against the world, and their faith won. We were there to guard and protect them if needed, but they stood on their own two feet. They chose to be Christian women and not of the world. They chose to stand out. And Hunter and I could not have been more proud!
Our day at the beach was nothing like what we expected, but that was okay. Our girls had a good time, learned a lot (whether they realized that or not), and Hunter and I came home with a restored appreciation for how wonderful our girls really are. Too often, I fear, we see the negatives in them. We see what we want them to become and look only to where they are falling short of our mark. But yesterday was a good reminder for us that our girls, are in fact, already above the mark here in Haiti. Yes, they still have a long way to go, but boy are they leaps and bounds ahead of the girls we saw yesterday. Sure, they have the occasional attitude, can be rather lazy at times, and we often fight the typical teen-girl wardrobe battle, but we figure it out and we move on.
At the Emmaus House, we are going to set the standard pretty high for our girls. And after yesterday, I am confident that our girls our going to succeed with beauty and grace.