Confession #9: I May Hate Debt in America, But I’m Terrified of it in Haiti
So I’m pretty much terrified of debt. I’m not really sure where this fear came from, but the thought of me “being in the red” or “owing someone on credit” literally sets my heart in a terror.
Now I’ll be honest, my student loan debt alone equals more than the total cost of both of our future adoptions. This reality has lent me many panic attacks since college. My student debt was the one thing that almost kept us from moving to Haiti a few years ago- after all, moving here meant we would defiantly not be able to pay it off anytime soon. Still, we came, trusting God that He would provide what we would need when we would need it. (Daily bread, right?)
And except a one-time use Best Buy card to purchase a computer, we have never owned a credit card and never plan to. We made this agreement back in the days of pre-marital counseling and have been faithful to it since (Minus the computer purchase that is, but it was a MacBook Pro, so you must understand!).
All that to say: I hate debt. And once I finish paying off my student loans one day, I plan to avoid the nasty four-letter word all I can. Although I realize that will be quite impossible considering I will need to buy a house and a car once I return to the states. Oh joy! God will provide.
Anyway, I wanted to confess my hate/fear/ownership of debt with you all today because of a sign I ran across at the bank today. Posted at the window beside each bank teller station was a sign that read: Men moun ki prete lajan Fonkoze e ki pa remet.
Translated, it says: These are the people who borrowed money from Fonkoze (the bank) and did not pay it back. From there a list of names and their towns proceed.
While waiting for our money Gerome noticed me starring at this list. Assuming I needing help translating it, he checked to make sure I understood what it said. I understood it fine, but what I didn’t understand was how it worked.
“What is the purpose?” I asked him.
“Well, if I see someone on that list then I am supposed to tell them that I know they didn’t pay back their loan,” he replied.
“Does that work?” I asked, honestly curious.
“Yeah, because if their name is on this list and I see it and they don’t come in, the next step is the police,” he said matter-of-factly.
I got to thinking about this on our drive home from the bank. The average person in Haiti has very little money, yet when they go in debt and struggle to pay it back their name goes on a list for public display and humiliation. And to make matters worse, if they still can’t pay they are then reported to the police.
In America, we rack up debt everyday like it’s nobody’s business but our own. In Haiti, however, your debt is everyone’s business. Here, people hold other people’s wallet’s accountable.
Maybe that is awkward, or maybe that is just good and responsible community. I can’t decide. For example, should you hold me accountable for my student loans just like the Haitian community does for those taking loans from bank? Should a Facebook notice go out every month I pay late so you can tell me to do better or else? What do you think?