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Soup Joumou and the Joy of Sharing

I will never forget the first New Year’s we spent in Haiti for the holidays. We learned so much that year, and just when I thought I had heard and seen it all, something else surprised me. 
Soon after the sun came up on New Year’s day, we heard a knock on our door. There stood Sylvio with a pot of soup. I was perplexed by the joy on his face in that moment. He was so proud to hand me my first taste of Soup Joumou. I was still learning Creole, and we talked for quite a while before I could figure out why he came to my door so early.
“Madame Brad,” he said, “every January 1st we prepare and eat Soup Joumou to commemorate Haiti's independence. We make enough to share. It is the first meal you must eat today! January 1st is about more than marking the New Year in Haiti—much more!

We celebrate our country's independence since 1804. Before this, slaves prepared the soup for slave owners, but they could not even taste it. That changed once the slaves overthrew the French and Haiti declared itself an independent nation.”
He looked at me with the biggest smile ever and a pot of soup. Up until this time in Haiti, my North American mind would always argue with accepting such an amazing gift when I knew we had everything we needed. I was sure that if he gave us something, it was at the expense of someone in his home. But the one thing I understood clearly that day was nou pataje—we share.
For months leading up to that day, I had experienced many moments of watching Haitian people share. Culturally Haitian people are very generous, even in their struggle to provide for their own families. Some days it was a chair that would be wiped down before I sat in their home when we came for a visit; other days it was a cold Coke in their yard or a gift purchased specifically for me. It is humbling to be at the receiving end of that kind of generosity. 

As strange as it may seem, Soup Joumou is a yearly reminder to me to be generous. 

More importantly, I am inspired by the enthusiasm Jesus had when he shared about the widow who gave out of her poverty. In Mark 12:41-44, it’s clear that Jesus was not as interested in what people gave as in how they gave. When he watched the poor widow give all she had at the temple, he pointed out her noble, humble generosity to the disciples. I believe that when we are open-handed with our sharing, when we give sacrificially from our heart, that is true generosity, and it pleases the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:7).
This year you may have made some New Year’s resolutions, like getting in shape, eating better, or saving more money, but I would like to challenge you to be more generous—not necessarily with your finances, but with something! 

  • Open your home to someone who needs to be loved.
  • Give someone a gift card.
  • Write a letter of encouragement.
  • Give up a parking spot.
  • Make an extra pot of soup, and take it to your neighbor.
  • BE GENEROUS. We cannot out-give!