Sitting in the back of a beaten down, white pick up truck, I looked out and saw a rural village filled with rubble and trash. It was quite different from anything I had ever seen.
Small, hand-built shacks were spread out along the side of the road with families waving and smiling — welcoming me to this unfamiliar country they call home. As the drive down the dusty, unpaved road continued, the crowds of people started to diminish.
At first, I thought we had lost sight of our destination, but then to my surprise, I spotted the small, four concrete walled school.
The truck came to a haulty stop, and I apprehensively took my first steps outside this unknown land of dirt and debris. Before my eyes were nothing like a school, rather it was a four-walled concrete structure. As I cautiously approached the schoolhouse, I found several rows of wooden desks and chairs.
It was a haven for students; a place where they could vividly imagine their future. As I stood in awe of this place, I felt sweat beating down my face. The mere ninety degrees of Cercady, Haiti felt like the temperature of the Sahara desert. I reached for my water bottle to quench my thirsty throat.
A few moments later, about a dozen or so children came running into the school; with smiles so contagious I merely overlooked their ripped and tattered clothing. Out of all the children that came hustling inside, one little girl stood out in the crowd. I would later find out the little girl's name was Crystelli.
Crystelli was sandwiched in between her two sisters, almost as if she wanted to be hidden. Her shy nature took the best of her as we made eye contact for the first time. She had a smile that was so innocent yet so fearful, and her eyes looked as if they had seen a thousand years.
I worked up the courage to say hello to Crystelli in Haitian Creole; a language that was quite unfamiliar to me. "Alo," I said fearfully as I awaited a quiet response.
Crystelli mumbled a few words to me in an indecipherable language and greeted me with the most gentle touch. After an awkward greeting and an exchange of names, she took my hand and led me down a narrow dirt path.
Reluctantly, I followed in the shadows of her footsteps. The ten-minute walk to the watering hole felt like a lifetime.
As the watering hole approached, my footsteps grew slower and slower as Crystelli's grew faster and faster. We had finally reached our destination.
A joyful smile erupted on Crystelli's face as she demonstrated how to fill up a bucket of water and balance it gently on her head. I tried doing the same but failed miserably despite my efforts.
Crystelli laughed at each of my failed attempts, which only brought us closer together. Through my quiet laughter and shy smile, I commemorated the process I had just born witness to. I knew something about this little girl stood out to me. It took me walking a mile in her shoes or lack thereof for me to pinpoint what was so special about her. She was beautiful, kind, curious, and full of adventure.
Crystelli stood out to me because of her incredible beauty, not only on the outside but also on the inside. She exerted a kind nature about her in the way she talked.
She had a servant's heart — one that loved others in a gentle and inviting manner. She fell deeply in love with life, no matter the circumstance.
She smiled at the simplest of matters, like walking on a dirt road and filling up a bucket of dirty, muddy water. She had an adventurous side to her and was curious about the world around her.
She is a true inspiration and our trip to her watering hole allowed me to see that. In the crowd of a dozen children, this one little girl caught my attention and touched my heart.
I left the watering hole with a vivid memory as I parted ways with Crsystelli. Our goodbyes sounded like"orevwa and our see you laters sounded like "we ou byento.