Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I'm having a hard time actually writing this post. People keep asking me how I'm feeling since the earthquake in Haiti. I think I won't know how I feel until I write it down. Maybe that's why I'm procrastinating.

I tend to assume that everyone who reads my blog knows all about me. But maybe there are one or two of you who don't know this: I lived in Haiti for a year, 1990 to the first few weeks of 1991. I was a missionary and it was the best decision I could have made at that point in my life. I was 21 and I'd never been anywhere like Haiti. I'd hardly imagined anywhere like Haiti.

We're hearing it all now, ad nauseam: poorest country in the western hemisphere; two hundred years of oppressive governments; unemployment and illiteracy rates well over 50%; scarce clean water on a good day; no public schools; an unacceptable number of children who don't make it to their 5th birthday (though I'm not sure what an acceptable number would be).

You know what I remember? People. Lovely, happy, kind, generous people. Not all of them, to be sure. But most of them. People who fed me when their own families would go hungry for it. People who encouraged my halting language skills in the beginning, and applauded me as I got better. People who loved me simply because I was there, and I tried to appreciate them and their country and culture. People I love.

Take a look at the wall of the house behind us. It's not even unreinforced cement blocks. It's sheets of metal. I'm pretty sure I could have knocked down that wall with my own two hands. Odds that it is still standing today? Dismal.

My children are familiar with this phrase: Life isn't fair. They hear it all the time from me, in reference to allowances and concerts and homework and anything else that doesn't match exactly what their wishes are at a given moment.

Sometimes, Life isn't Fair doesn't begin to cover it.

As I saw the pictures begin to come in, I wished passionately that I could get on a plane and be there. Never mind that my Creole isn't as fluent as it was twenty years ago. Never mind that my husband is currently on a business trip in Asia. Never mind that I have four kids that can't stay home by themselves.

Since I couldn't, I sent money. I always have mixed feelings about money in these situations: it seems almost a cop-out. It seems too simple. It seems like a sop to my conscience.

But then my 11-year-old daughter put out two ten-dollar bills that she's been saving from Christmas and left me a note with it: "For the people in Haiti."

Suddenly, adding my own money to hers didn't seem like a cop-out.

And the truth is, at the moment cash is desperately needed. Cash makes the world go round. Cash will give those on the ground resources.

And it's not like the opportunities to help are going to vanish quickly. Months from now, there will still be needs. Maybe I'll get to travel then. Maybe not. But I know that I, for one, will not forget the people of Haiti when the TV cameras disappear. Because I have never forgotten them.

Bondieu, papa-nou nan ciel-la, aidez tout-moun-yo nan Ayiti.

And because I've had a few people ask where they can donate, I'll add this. The American Red Cross is always a good place to begin. Click here for the donation page, which gives you many options. Choose the one that speaks loudest to your heart.

If you want a smaller, more intimate organization, consider Healing Hands for Haiti. They provide multiple medical teams each year to help with physical rehabilitation and other medical needs. Five of their seven buildings in their complex were destroyed by the earthquake, but they have opened their space to several nearby orphanages that lost everything. Dr. Jeffrey Randle, who started Healing Hands, left last night for Haiti with a team of 20 medical professionals. Click here to donate where my daughter's allowance money went.

But can I give one piece of advice, straight from my heart? All around you, wherever you live and whatever your situation, there are people in need of help. I believe in helping wherever your heart moves you. Call a friend who's struggling. Write a note to someone you appreciate. Pick up trash. Be kind. Heaven knows, kindness is in short supply in our world. We can all use a little more it.

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