There are some key factors when leaving a good first impression. And showing one's bare backside is not one of them! But, I found myself giving a young boy across the world in a remote part of Haiti a story that would probably be told for generations to come. I'm sure I've provided laughter over fires, at the dinner table, during an afternoon stroll, or even spicing up a bedtime story.
Ever since the devastating earthquake in 2010, this country had been on my heart, but every time I tried to find a way to serve there, every door was closed. So I patiently waited and to my surprise (and a long, cool story I might add), three years later I found myself on the ground documenting the work of Soles4Souls through photojournalism.
I had visited and served numerous countries the prior 15 years so poverty was not a new sight but every experience is unique. And this one was no different.
The two vans packed of Americans, a couple translators, the team leader, and myself traveled to different parts of the country where hundreds of anxious kids were given a new pair of donated shoes. Something we often take for granted, but a huge necessity when walking on dirt roads and uneven streets as a way of life.
Some of the places we visited were more remote than others. We arrived at a community that was very barren. One-room homes built from scraps scattered among the dusty land with a few trees and bushes adding a bit of contrasting color and life to the tapestry. We unloaded the bags of shoes into a one-room church. All four tin walls and tin roof created a natural sauna effect in the extreme-afternoon heat.
Before we started washing feet and sizing people for new footwear, the females on the team needed a potty break - including myself. So, off we went in search of some coverage and found a stretch of vernal land to hide. I, of course, went as far back as possible, not wanting to get to know my teammates on that type of intimate level. I can potty anywhere (and have in various countries . . . holes, buckets, drains, bushes) as long as I have minimal coverage where I can't be seen.
So . . . minimal is the key word in this situation because although I thankfully couldn't see the women ahead of me in their hiding spaces, I chose a rather open area at the end with just a few low-to-the-ground leafy greens. But, it was a remote area . . . RIGHT?!? I squat down, getting ready to do my business and within a few seconds of dropping my drawers, I heard a faint familiar noise coming up from behind (no pun intended).
My private moment in the Haitian barren-land quickly became shared by a young boy riding his bike up the road . . . past me in all my glory. Oddly enough, I didn't change my stance because at that point, the damage had been done to that poor youth. However, I did shout out ahead, "BOY ON A BIKE!" To which I heard back, "too late!"
Although releaving one's self in public is against the law in America, it is very common in other countries, especially in third-world and remote lands. In fact, on the way to the airport last month in Haiti, our driver suddenly pulled over during our two-hour drive, walked around back to the side of the street and "took care of nature".
This humbling story always makes me laugh . . . for so many reasons! I stand out in many of the countries I visit because of my hair color, my skin color, my language difference, and because of the big camera I carry around. In fact, many times people will refer to me as blanc (meaning white in French) or mazunga (meaning white person in Uganada) if they don't know my name. There is no sense of disrespect, but simply a term to describe one's presence. So . . . not only did I stand out that day because of all of these factors, but also because I mooned the poor kid.
Leaving a legacy of the blanc backside.
You're probably wondering where the morale of the story is. Well . . . ever heard the phrase "don't get caught with your pants down?" LOL!!!
In all seriousness, this story is a stark reminder that although things don't always go as planned . . . sometimes you find yourself in uncomfortable situations . . . or you're surprised by unexpected circumstances, you can still move on. In that moment, it might be devastating, frustrating or in my case very embarrassing, but over-reacting will only make things worse.
I can only imagine if I would have exaggerated my response when I saw the boy on the bike. I think the word "crazy" would have been added to the story about the blanc lady in the bush.
Don't become part of the problem, be the solution . . . and KEEP YOUR PANTS ON!
(. . . none of these boys outside the church were tramatized by the blanc woman but enjoyed their afternoon getting a new pair of shoes)