A Haiti Lesson from Burger King
If you’re old like me, looking at these Burger King images brings back a few memories and then it catapults you into today. There is a simple lesson here…things change. Sometimes they change for the best and other times they change for the worse. One thing I noticed as I took my family into a Burger King in Atlanta this past weekend as we traveled home from family vacation was this: Sometimes people aren’t ready for the change you want to bring.
While this isn’t a super deep post regarding Haiti or its future, I noticed something when we pulled into what I can only describe as the “Nicest Burger King I have EVER been in.” I realized that this building was either brand new or recently renovated–in this case it was a recent renovation. It was amazing and breathtaking. I don’t know how long it had been open, but everything from the new flat panel menus to the black shiny futuristic Freestyle Coke dispenser showed that someone had paid attention to detail in this place. The landscaping was fresh and manicured and the interior was spotless. In fact, Missy and I both commented on how amazed we were with how this didn’t remind us of a Burger King at all, but more of an upscale trendy type place you might find near us in downtown Nashville.
So what lesson did I learn from my visit to Burger King? I realized that you can clean it, update it, make it look better than ANY other Burger King, but it’s the people who make the difference. The staff was polite and friendly and even made our visit there an over the top success–which is hard to do when you travel with 5 kids.
Right before I left, reality slapped me in my face. Like I normally do, I stopped by the restroom before I left…and that is where I noticed it. The mirror had been carved with what looked like a knife with intricate gang-style graffiti, the paper towel dispenser had been scrubbed and sanded where someone had “tagged” it with similar graffiti, and the walls had been scrubbed and repainted in multiple areas to cover even more markings. When I saw these things it hit me…you can change the outside, the inside, and the entire environment, but you can’t change how some people treat it. The people who took the time to tag this bathroom did so for a couple of reasons that I can imagine–(1) they have no respect for the work someone else did and (2) somebody else will either clean it up or accept it…which made me even more proud of whoever had chosen to literally sand the plastic paper towel dispenser in order to remove the tags.
My mind went straight to Haiti…where we struggle to get our staff, the neighbors, and the children who come through our doors to respect the property we have. In their eyes, someone else is always cleaning, fixing, and providing things for them. There is no ownership there and no respect for things when someone else is always coming and taking care of or replacing something they have misused.
I have seen children in Haiti play for hours with homemade cars–made out of 4 plastic bottle tops (for wheels), a plastic bottle (for the car body), and a string (which allows the “car” to be pulled behind the child). My heart breaks for them when I think of the cars and trucks my kids have outgrown over the years. I have even brought quite a few of these toys to Haiti–only to watch them be broken into pieces and thrown on the ground in a matter of minutes. I can’t help but wonder if this cycle will EVER be broken.
Why would someone who has grown up without “things” in their LIFE not respect or take care of those things? Why do the men we hire to work for us use a hammer when a little time and patience will work the same and not destroy the door? Why have people settled for a LIFE of poverty and hand me downs? Has Haiti traded the slavery of its past for the slavery of dependency?
The only hope I have is knowing that we will walk with the people of Neply, Haiti for as long as we can. We are there for LIFE…to see the change happen…not pay for it or hand it to them. Too many organizations have tried that philosophy…and have left within a few years, many times convinced Haiti is a lost cause or that it’s people are too ignorant to change.
So when you use a trashcan, carefully put the lid back on the peanut butter, or make sure you turn your lights off when you’re not using them–remember this–we are on a mission to change Haiti…forever…and forever takes a long time. It wasn’t too long ago that America struggled to keep our own streets clean. Remember the Crying Indian? If you don’t check out the video HERE and realize that somebody somewhere made a decision to educate and inform a group of people…
Will you join us? THANKS! –mike wilson