Mural 32 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

NeverNeverNeverNever say never!


I should have learned that lesson so long ago.  I realize that when you say sentences with "never" in them, you are just begging the universe to bite you from behind in places where you don't want bitten.  And, when given the opportunity to bite, the universe tends to do it.

I can only remember two "never sentences" in my life.  I'm sure there are more, but two have been repeated so often that they are sort of seared in my brain.  Of course, I never would have said never unless I was absolutely certain that they never would happen.  Never say never.

The first "never sentence" that I remember was, "I'm from Ohio, but I will never move back there."  I always thought that Ohio was a good place to be "from" but not "in".  It was fairly safe to say I'd never live there again when I found myself living in Africa, Asia, and Europe for twenty years.  I even bought a home in Belgium and seriously planned to stay there. What can I say?  I lost my teaching job when the economy took a downturn.  I had to sell my home.  And, when I could move anywhere in the universe, Ohio seemed to be the right place.

The bite marks healed.

And then, there was the second never sentence.  As absolutely certain as I was that the first sentence would never happen, I was infinitely more certain about the second.  There was no way in Michigan that it stood a chance.  Never!  Absolutely never!  It was impossible.  I would never return to Haiti.

I've traveled the world and visited so many countries.  But, in all my travels, only Haiti made the "No way, absolutely never, I won't go back there" list.  Of course, I truly believe that most people would feel that way if they were wrongly arrested and hauled off to prison in some country.  You'll have to read the "Adventures in Haiti" section to get the full story.  Just know, I've told people for decades that I would never return to Haiti.  Never!  And, everyone believed me.

But then, there was the earthquake.

Ever since that earthquake, I felt like Haiti should be revisited.  If any place ever deserved a bit of color and happiness with a mural and a community project, it had to be in Port-au-Prince.  When the invitation came my way, I had to say "yes" after so many years of saying "never".

All of my murals have interesting stories behind them.  At least, in my humble - and oh, so biased - opinion, they are interesting.  Recently, many of them have been linked together.  The beginning of my return to Haiti started on the mural project to the Mexican/American border town of Piedras Negras.  Now seriously, who would have imagined that?  That's where I met Laura.

Laura's church takes mission trips to Haiti on a regular basis.  When Laura came home, beaming, and told her pastor about the experience in Mexico, he immediately said, "You have to come with me to Haiti."  And, when Laura made plans to go to Grace Children's Hospital in Port-au-Prince, I was a part of those plans.

There was a serious time crunch to get the mural painted in the four days we had to paint.  So, the design was made in advance.  I didn't get as much input as I would have liked, but with the suggestion of "Jesus Loves the Little Children", I came up with a Haitian twist.  That twist included a map of Haiti and the national flag.  I was satisfied because I like to give each mural a local flavor that would only work in that specific country.

Every mural has its little challenges, but they are always overcome.  The wall in the children's wing of the Grace Children's Hospital was the bumpiest surface I've ever painted a mural on.  It soaked up gobs of extra paint and was nearly impossible to create a smooth line.  As always, I was up for the challenge, and as always, I had wonderful volunteers for the project.  So, in spite of more than a few bumps in the road (or in this case wall), the mural went up in the four days we had to do it.

As far as the universe biting me you-know-where again because I said "never", well, I had such a positive time in Haiti that there were no wounds to heal.  No scars.  No pain.  And, there is already buzz in the air about my next visit to Haiti.

So, I repeat, NeverNeverNeverNever say never!