December 6, 2005 - Vol 1 #2
Meet Jean Gelin
Who is Jean Gelin?
Jean Gelin is a husband, a father, and a believer; he is in his early 40's, loves life, loves people, and believes in peace; he currently works in agricultural research, and enjoys reading and writing.
Where did you grow up for the most part? Where do you live now for the most part?
For most of my life I lived in Haiti, moving constantly between Plateau Central and Port-au-Prince. I traveled to other parts of the country as well.
How do your youth experiences relate to your life as an adult?
I had a lot of fun growing up in Haiti as a young man. From the soccer field to the river, I was always enjoying life at every opportunity. I can safely say that if I am a fairly stable adult today it's partly because I had time to taste the foolishness of life very early. On the other hand, I had a first hand experience with the brevity of our lives with the loss of my Mom and Dad when I was still in high school. That particular experience made me realize, among other things, that we can be out at any moment. One question I ask myself very often is this: Since I am not here forever, will I try to make a difference during my lifetime for the people I interact with, or will I choose to live for myself only? I find myself often standing at that crossroad.
Are you the person that you wanted to be as you grew up?
So far, yes. But I have not arrived yet where I want to be.
How did your physical and social environment impact your personal development? Are they conducive today to your own sense of fulfillment?
My parents instilled a strong sense of discipline and self-esteem in all of us. One thing they used to say quite often is that a good education was the best asset they could ever leave us with. Growing up as a kid, it became important for me to live a morally good life and do well in school while enjoying myself. I still live by some of the principles I received from my parents, and I am really grateful to them.
I grew up Duvalier and at that time Haiti was pretty stable – relatively speaking. That relative stability gave people a sense of control over their own destiny. You could make plans for your life and attempt to fulfill them. I remember how my classmates and I (Institut Georges Marc) used to sit down and discuss our future, like which Faculty we wanted to attend and what we wanted to do after that.
Once upon a time in Haiti, people were socially connected and young boys and girls were watched over by adults other than their own parents and close relatives. That sense of community impacted me in a positive way, and although it almost no longer exists in the big cities, peasants still live by those values deep in the country. Maybe that's why I still believe Haitians can and should try to live in harmony again, despite their differences in politics, philosophy or religion.
Tell us about your activities in general and your special interests.
Apart from my work, I read a lot and I write also. My family is the top priority and takes up most of my time, but I manage to invest in the church where together we serve God and people. In the summer, I usually travel to places with my family.
What is your perception of the community or communities in which you are currently engaged - or - that you wish to belong to, on a long term basis?
My perception is that most people want to work and live together in harmony, but sometimes – often too frequently – they hurt and kick each other unnecessarily. I have come to understand that when engaged in a community (virtual or not), the big picture and my own focus are two critical elements I need to consider constantly, to avoid unnecessary friction.
What would you consider the biggest challenge to the development or betterment of your community/communities?
Anyone involved in community outreach programs will have to face a lack of tolerance and acceptance toward/from others. From my experience that in itself would be the biggest challenge to the improvement of the nation or to the betterment of any community. People generally are afraid of change, whether in their habits or in their thinking patterns.
What are your persistent hopes and most frequent fears?
I'll talk about Haiti. I really hope that the “few” who speak on behalf, or in the name, of the “many” (whether mandated or not) will have the courage and decency to say the right thing, always. Words have meaning and power. I hope that one day, the power of words will be used to build up and not tear down that precious little country. For Haiti, again, I fear that this may never happen, and that death will continue to reign in place of life, darkness in place of light, destruction in place progress, constant discord in place of harmony among children of the same family.
What is your most cherished dream?
One day I will have to leave this earth, as is the case for all of us. So far, I have been able to fulfill some of my dreams and to reach some of my goals, and I know that others will come as I get older. My most cherished dream is to depart completely empty, like a spent shell so to speak, entirely void of all these ideas and projects that keep bubbling inside my soul.
Now suppose, just suppose, that we grant you ten million dollars for doing this interview, with the stipulation that you must spend it in 24 hours or less, what would you do?
First, I would buy my wife's dream house. Then I would invest in a good college education for the family. Finally, I would support a number of projects (some already identified) that could potentially affect Haitians in a positive way – abroad and at home.
Now suppose, just suppose, that you knew for certain that you had one week (7 days) to live, how would you spend your time?
I would immerse myself in prayer, worship, and communion with my family. I would also give some hours to relatives, friends, and members of the church where I serve.
Is there a world leader (past or present) in any field (arts, science, rights, political, spiritual, etc) that you most admire?
I most admire and try to follow the Galilean called Jesus. His philosophy of life, his teaching and example represent all I would like to become one day – if that's possible at all.
Leave us a parting word.
I never thought I would gain so much by just joining the Ann Pale Forum last year. It's been a very enriching experience for me. Thank you, Guy. For the rest of you, Mesyedam, you know it would take too much space to mention all the names here. But, I thank you all for your very challenging ideas. Let's keep debating anything that can be debated! Ann Pale!
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