In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

'Nice' Clothes

'Here are some nice clothes for you', Miss Bernadette told one of our young, resident Mothers. The younger woman raised her head and looked down her nose at the scrub sets Miss Bernadette was extending towards her.

'Mesi'(Thanks), the tall, short-haired woman replied, in a low voice, and with an empty expression. Clearly, she was anything but grateful. Miss Bernadette is only a few years older than the sullen young woman in front of her, but she was anything but discouraged. Her smile was unwavering, and her tone was warm. 'We do not wear shorts in this house,' Miss Bernadette explained.

The 'nice' clothes, nursing scrubs, were to replace shorts that were so short that they exposed the woman's thighs. She nodded, lowered her eyes and took the scrubs from Miss Bernadette. Now she understood: they might not be stylish, but all of the nursery staff wore them. The ladies here were making it easy for the young mother to conform to their standards of modesty. As a guest in this house, she was willing to conform to those standards.

Many foreigners consider Haitian fashion backwards. Haiti is a country in which women outside of the cities and the city suburbs prefer to wear skirts and dresses, which are usually knee length. Men are rarely seen out in public topless, and shoulders, busts and mid-rifts are not display. I like that.

Of course, Western fashions do have an influence in Haiti. At God's Littlest Angels, our Haitian staff are exposed to dozens of Christian missionaries as well as visitors from Europe and North America. Many of these Western Christians have far looser standards of modesty than the Haitians do. One of the things that impresses me about the ladies here, and about Haitian Christians in general, is that they hold fast to their own standards. I love that and I respect that. After all, the ways of the world are always changing, but as Christians, we are not supposed to be 'of the world'. Instead, we are called to honour a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

As Bernadette clocked off shift tonight, wearing a knee length skirt and a short-sleeved blouse, I remembered her exchange with our resident Mum, and I was proud of her. I wish I had told Bernadette how pretty she looked. Maybe she doesn't need my encouragement, but I think she deserved it.

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