It was 2013 and I was in college when I bought a little leather strap with the words HAITI MADE on it. I wasn’t in Haiti at the time; in fact, I’ve never been.
I was on a youth retreat in North Carolina for a religious organization. I wanted to fit in. More than that, I wanted to believe.
The missionary selling the straps spoke so passionately, convinced he was making a difference. I envied him that, and the conviction he wore like a mask.
So I bought the little leather key ring strap. Thirty dollars to help save the world.
The letters — stamped in lightly by what the missionary said were Haitian hands — soon faded, as did my memory of the trip and the faith to which I had clung.
The leather has grown soft from years of my hands’ grasping. The snap on the end snicks beneath my fingers. Sometimes I think about taking it off and throwing away the last remnant of my old self, maybe even making way for someone new.
But I still want to make a difference. I still want to cling to the belief that what I do can help someone else. So I keep it.
Key Ring Chronicles is a crowd-sourced project that explores the stories behind objects that people keep on their key rings. It was created and is overseen by Paul Lukas, who has kept a quarter with a hole drilled through it on his own key ring since 1987. Readers are encouraged to participate by sending photos and descriptions here.