I could never have envisioned a year ago that I’d be standing, along with one-year old Pierre, for a birthday song and blessing at L’Eglise de l’Ephanie, a Haitian Episcopal church, in Stamford, CT. But there I was this past Sunday.
I had been searching to make a difference somewhere outside my family and community. Last fall I went to a presentation at our church on Haiti and thought, “Eureka.” I speak a little French, Creole intrigues me, and it seemed the proud, independent Haitians could use a little help. A group was forming to make the trek this past spring, and I was in. Our plan was to build a school playground. Oh that it could have been that simple.
The earthquake hit and everything changed. Haiti was no longer a place for do-gooder newbies, so the trip was cancelled and our playground group morphed into the Haiti Action Team. We did what we could, rounding up emergency supplies. Meanwhile we decided to strengthen ties with our Haitian neighbors at the Episcopal church the next town over. Maybe we could help with the influx of refugees? There was talk of a walk between the two churches. Maybe a joint picnic?
But asking a group to do that is a little like asking for someone’s hand in marriage when you haven’t even had your first date. What to do? I did the only thing I knew to do. I started going to their church on Sunday nights.
If I’m Haiti bound, it’s perfect practice. I speak simple French—not the lofty prayer book variety. Reverend Judy preaches in French and Creole, tossing in the occasional English phrase for the decidedly all-American young people in the crowd…and me.
From the beginning these people who shift comfortably from English, French, Creole, and Spanish—embrace the outsider. I am white—the other. They know what that feels like and welcome me.
It’s my birthday, and the prayer naturally flows from French to English. Reverend Judith quietly translates but with little Pierre, active and ready for his party, I didn’t understand it all. No matter. I felt it—powerfully.
After the service we make our way over to the parish hall for Pierre’s party. I had dinner plans at home, but they insist I stay—just ten minutes. An hour later, I’m still there eating a bountiful buffet of roast chicken, green salad, pinto beans and rice, and a dish I swear they called Ritz Salad, a pretty pink creamy potato and beet salad, both wonderfully familiar, yet intriguingly different. (Turns out they were calling it Salad “Russe” or Russian, duh!)
An on-line search yielded scores of recipes featuring the famous crackers, but when I entered “Haitian Potato Salad” I got close.
When I started attending L’Eglise de l’Ephanie early spring I thought this would be a good experience for us all. Maybe it is, but at this point, it sure feels like I’m getting the better deal.
I have loved watching you get involved with L’Eglise de l’Ephanie and the Haitian Community in our area this year. And I’m not at all surprised that you are starting to explore the cuisine of Haiti too. What fun! Look forward to more recipes like this.
I love Kevin’s drawing of you surrounded by the beautiful Haitian community. Not only are you making a difference each week in so many of our lives with your culinary expertise but now you’re lending a hand where the need is so great. I could picture you intending to only stay for ten minutes but instead spending your birthday with strangers. I’m sure by evening’s end you were family. And beets? My most fave veggie — will be making this one!
Jeaneane Kozlowski-Dial says
I teach Haitian children. Many lost their entire families in the earthquake. It is beautiful to see you reaching out. It’s been years since I saw you last (Trinity) but you still find a way to reach out. Thank you for sharing.
I knew your smile came from somewhere special, seems you are a beautiful person inside and out 🙂
Elizabeth Mattson says
I think everyone should make an effort to worship outside their norm at least once. The joy and spirit can be overwhelming and inspiring.
However, my primary comment is long overdue, but prompted by Susan’s reply. Kevin does amazing work. I enjoy and look forward to his creativity as much as I do the posts and recipes.
Pam, I love that you played off the title of David’s book for your own. I wonder if you even realized you did it – you two seem to share the same heart, the same brain. Never have I met a couple more perfectly paired.
It would terrify me to walk into a strange church, no matter what the reason. Another clue into what a special person you are.
Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday says
Wow, I would be really intimidated to attend services at another church. Especially one of a different language and culture. You are one brave woman!
I think it’s wonderful you are attending a church service different from where you normally worship. One body, different parts, but same Father.
Mary Lou Surgi says
Greetings from Asheville and one of your walking/running friends from last year. My eyes caught the “Haitian” in the potato salad recipe which lead me to your Birthday Epiphany….I lived and worked in Jacmel, Haiti from 1986-1989. It was an amazing time, place, and experience for me. A large piece of my heart is still there. So I am filled with joy for you having your life blessed in this way. I hope you will continue to share your experiences with us.
You are truly beautiful from the inside out! This story explains your bright radiance and the blessings of your life…including the lovely family that you have.