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Alissa Sandoval

The Significance of Eggplants this Lent

February 28, 2017 | no comments | Special Features

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Can I get a little nerdy with y’all? Have you heard of Semiotic Code? Let me break it down: semiotic code is all about placing significance on objects or “signs” as Ferdinand De Sassure referred to them. You, the signifier, give an object meaning, but this is unique to every person.

For example, when I see a picture of M&Ms, I get super excited because this is my favorite candy. I’m the signifier and the M&Ms are the sign that I have given significance. But you may not have the same reaction if another candy is your favorite, making a bit more sense now? Experiences in particular tend to give “signs” meaning.

The Experience of a Lifetime

I lived in Haiti for about 9 months after I graduated from university. Part of my job while working in Haiti with another international NGO, was to go out to project sites; farms, wells, schools, etc. photographing them and then writing up stories about what I had seen for donors and the website. Now, there are all sorts of “signs” in North America that remind me of when I lived in Haiti.

Whenever I look at mini French presses, I’m reminded of the mini French press that fell off my desk at work one day. My journal with a map that covers the front reminds me of my quiet Saturday mornings of journaling and praying for hours. When I see avocados, I’m reminded of the time our ladies in the kitchen taught me how to pick out the perfect avocado. And whenever I see eggplants at a farmer’s market, I’m instantly standing on a farmer’s plot in Haiti. More specifically, a farmer named David.

A Lasting Impression

David is a farmer in Haiti and we were visiting his farm one day as a part of a routine field visit. We were making sure his crops were growing tall and strong and that he had understood the planting lessons he had received. Some of his crops were ready to be harvested. As we walked and talked with David, he picked ripe vibrant purple eggplants from different plants. What I remember most about David, was how kind his eyes looked, a major contrast to the usual rough exterior in Haiti. I snapped a few photos of him with his beautiful eggplants and then we began walking back to our truck.

As I opened my car door I heard, “Cheri, tal le tal le,” David shouted at me from around the white pick-up truck, “Mwen gen bagay pou ou!” Meaning, “My dear, wait, wait! I have something for you,” in Creole. David had raced to my side of the car and carefully placed all seven eggplants in my arms. Everything that he had been picking during our time with him he gave to me. In complete shock, all I could manage to say back was “mesi anpil,” meaning, “thank you very much.” I remember driving away feeling overwhelmed as I fought back tears. I will never forget this farmer’s kindness, crops or face. The entire moment is forever etched into my mind.

Reflecting on Lent

So, when I was asked to write a story about a farmer in Haiti for our new resource Planting Faith: A Family Guide to Lent, I had the perfect inspiration for the main character in the story. While the story is fictional, all of the characters in our resource are inspired by real people that I met while I was living in Haiti. Beautiful people with lives that are far more difficult than my own and yet hold far more joy than I do. The people in Haiti astound me. And I hope that respect for them is conveyed in this resource.

This season, we invite your family to come on a journey with us. This short resource for you and your kids has been written so you may experience Easter through the eyes of David and his family. The characters reflect the real hardships of so many families all around the world and are inspired by real people living in Haiti today. Like more than 70% of the rural poor, David’s family relies on agriculture for their livelihood and source of food.

We hope you and your family grow in faith alongside this family in Haiti. Being faithful to this Lent Guide will produce fruit in your family just as a farmer is faithful to his field so they can reap a plentiful harvest. I hope you allow this resource to create a few new “signs” in your everyday life.


About the author

Alissa Sandoval is a Creative Writing and Social Media Fellow for World Vision’s HungerFree. She studied Journalism and Integrated Media at Biola University in Southern California.

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