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MARCUS BROTHERTON New York Times Bestselling Author

How Beautiful and Powerful: When the Crazy Woman Shouts All Night

Sep 19, 2017 // By Marcus Brotherton

“Retaining Wall,” photo illustrations by Donn Anning Jones.

“Wilderness,” by DAJ.

“Sand and Rock,” by DAJ.


True story.


A catastrophic earthquake devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. Ripped the country apart.


My friend worked for an international relief organization back then, and he and a team flew to Port-au-Prince right afterward. They passed out clean water, fed people, bandaged wounds, and tried to do anything they could to ease suffering.


After two weeks, it was time to go home. The situation in Haiti wasn’t resolved by any means, and my friend said he and his team were deeply burdened. Covered by sweat and grit. Exhausted.


At night, they’d slept on the edge of a refugee camp on the outskirts of the ruined city. The building they’d slept in was hardly a building anymore. Roof blown off. All windows gone. All that was left standing were three-and-a-half walls of brick and hope.


The Haitian refugees who surrounded the building slept in makeshift tents and shanties. Everywhere were the sounds and smells of survival.


On the last night, my friend said all he wanted to do was go to sleep. The suffering was so great. He just wanted to close his eyes, and console his thoughts with the knowledge that more help was coming. He wanted to forget the despair around him for six hours, and then get up the next morning. He wanted to ride across the border to the Dominican Republic, so they could catch a plane back to America.


It’s telling. Almost darkly funny. The impulsive, even bizarre ways people act when under pressure.


About 2:10 a.m., not far from the makeshift building, a woman decided—for no apparent reason—to shout as loudly as she could.


The shouting lasted only about 10 seconds, then died away completely. Just one random, short, frustrated shout in the middle of the night.


My friend knew the exact time, because the shout woke him. Other team members stirred in their sleep-sheets, equally disturbed. Sound travels such a long way at night in a refugee camp. He looked at his watch, scratched his head at why anybody would do such an insensitive thing, and tried to get back to sleep.


About an hour later, this same woman decided to vent her frustration again. Same voice. Same impulsiveness. She shouted one random yell into the darkness.


My friend sighed. How could this woman be so thoughtless? Surely she was troubled, like everyone else. But did she really need to compound everyone’s problems?


What a calloused, thoughtless person, my friend concluded.


Sleep had barely returned, about 4 a.m., when the same woman shouted again.


Then came silence.


Then another short, random shout again at 4:30 a.m.


Then more silence.


Just before 5 a.m. came one more shout. This final shout sounded louder and more determined than ever. This crazy woman was simply out to ruin everyone’s sleep.


The sun was rising in the east, and my friend was so annoyed. So angry. His night of sleep had been destroyed, and his anger moved him to action.


He got up, all set to find this woman. To find a translator and give her a piece of his mind. But right then she shouted one more time.


And then came another sound, a completely different sound—a sound my friend also recognized. But this concluding sound wasn’t a shout. And it wasn’t the same woman’s voice.


At this concluding sound, my friend started to weep. He wept from regret. He wept from indignity. He wept with the newfound wisdom one feels only when he learns the truth, and wishes to God he hadn’t jumped to conclusion.


He said to me later: we’re so quick to create narratives in our heads. We experience a situation, interpret it to ourselves, and create a story around it that fits what we want to believe. That narrative becomes the fact we live and act by. But what if our interpretation is off? Perhaps the narrative we created isn’t fact at all.


Surely our solution is a changed posture. A changed perspective. We rise with our arms held high, hearts opened. Humbled, our faces to the sky. Receiving the Light that shines when all else fades.


See, only in the early morning was the truth revealed. Team members rushed to offer aid. The concluding sound came from the camp’s newest arrival. A soft and hungry cry.


Throughout the night, on the edge of a city in ruin …


a baby was born.




Question: have you ever experienced a situation where someone jumped to conclusions? What happened? What did you learn?