My father, Dr. Jeremiah Lowney, founded the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) in the early 1980’s. His first visit to Haiti was in February 1982. He was still recovering from surgery for a rare form of cancer diagnosed in the Fall of 1981 and was told he had one year to live. My father will tell you (with a smile and a wink) that 40 years later, he has been blessed with a very “long year.”
During his initial years in Haiti, volunteering in the slums of Port-au-Prince, my father became friendly with the Missionaries of Charity, an order of sisters founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. At her request, he established a nonprofit organization in the rural southwestern city of Jeremie, Haiti. With a dedicated Haitian staff of 200, this public health program has matured from initially serving 38,000 people in 25 rural villages to now providing health care to over 200,000 people in 104 villages. HHF’s outreach has always focused on the most vulnerable – women, children and the elderly. HHF brings the gifts of health, education and perhaps most importantly, hope, to thousands of Haitians, trapped in poverty, by no fault of their own.
While celebrating my father’s 84th birthday a few weeks ago, I asked him to share a bit of his wisdom. Believe me – he has enough to write another book! A few nuggets:
Have faith in God, your family, your friends. Prayer is different for all – we have our own beliefs. My father’s belief is God has a plan for us and we do not know what it is. God had quite the plan for my father and it was all administered with His guidance.
Remain open to your plan. Try not to question past decisions that led to outcomes you cannot change. Every journey is important. Embrace the lesson.
Regardless of circumstance or how people behave or treat you, love is an active choice. As the oldest of four, I disappointed my parents more than once, yet never doubted their love. My father was the oldest of eleven (9 boys and 2 girls), you can just imagine their interesting antics over the years!
Conditional love depends on people behaving a certain way. Unconditional love centers on acceptance. Be willing to forgive. Be willing to forget. Life is too short to harbor a grudge.
Time represents love. The greatest gift we can offer is our time, something of which we have a limited quantity. Be generous with your time when it comes to family and friends.
“The worse poverty is the lack of ability to imagine a tomorrow any different from today. The worse poverty is hopelessness. The gift we bring to the poor is the gift of hope.”
–Jeremiah Lowney Jr.
Opportunity vs. Obligation
You do not have to travel to Haiti or other Third World countries to make an impact – the opportunities are abundant, throughout the United States and in your hometown. Choosing to help others will benefit you more than the people you assist. The happiest people are those who, in some manner, serve others without any desire for recognition or personal gain.
Where can you add value? Successful companies add value to people’s lives. Impactful people serve others. Bring your best self to life!
Gratitude is Powerful
Let people know – at every opportunity – what they mean to you. Express your gratitude openly. Thank people with your words and actions.
Gratitude is powerful. Focus on what you DO have; your health, your mind, your family, friends, shelter, food, purpose.
To use golf terminology, my dad is on his “back nine” – yikes, so am I! Design your life. What do you want it to look like? Embrace your answer and live it every day. As my mother always counsels us-“Live every heartbeat!” YOUR “Someday” is now – what are YOU waiting for?
Gail Lowney Alofsin has been volunteering with the Haitian Health Foundation, both in the United States and Haiti, since she was 19 years old. For more information, visit HaitianHealthFoundation.org or reach out – firstname.lastname@example.org.