Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Days 5 and 6 in Haiti

The triage area is a now well-oiled machine- it’s amazing what duct tape can do. We sealed off the boundaries and gave definition to the path a visitor needs to take. There is no more jumping the line or squabbles as to who came first. Human beings anywhere are naturally prone to getting ahead of each other when they are desperate to get something for which everyone is clamoring. The way to address this is to give the process definition and set boundaries which are visible. Someone jumping the line when there are clearly marked dividers does so in full view of everyone else. When there are no such markers, standing haphazardly may well mean inviting someone to get ahead. A structure- that’s what makes the US work at airports, movie theaters, Dairy Queen or just about any place. It works just as well in Haiti.

Joyce and I had the opportunity to speak to the crowd of people in the mornings on days 5 and 6. I love how the Haitians interact with the speaker. Unlike in most of our churches, they think of a sermon as a conversation. African Americans tend to do this more often in the US, but I find the Haitian version less a cultural type than it is a normal way to process the word of God.

We found several cases- a girl with chikungunya, covered with rashes, a skinny pregnant woman who ate on 3 times a week as her husband had lost his job 7 years ago and never got another one (she was severely dehydrated), and several others- that makes one wonder how we could live with the ambivalence.

Oriol, one of the choir directors came up and played some songs on the guitar with me. I gave him several pages in a binder that contained musical notation for many hymns and songs. I plan to give the guitar to Father Roosevelt when I leave.

A trip like this brings about several interesting reflections and conversations. One topic that frequently comes up among the missionaries is the question that many ask of us- why go all the way to Haiti when there are so many poor in the US. This is, in my experience, a smokescreen for their guilt. It is usually asked by people who have not themselves done anything for the poor either in the US or anywhere else. This guilt is not necessarily a bad thing. As Paul Farmer says we experience ambivalence when we see poverty juxtaposed against our prosperity. There are 2 choices we could make when we experience this- either do something about it or make excuses. As he says in Mountains beyond Mountains, “among a coward's weapons, cynicism is the nastiest of all”.

In the evening on Day 5, Dr. Tom and I visited the homes of 2 of our Haitian helpers- Markenson and Enock (sic). Markeson is planning to come to Chicago on September 29 with Father Roosevelt, and I would like to meet up with him and Tom. I felt great to visit them and build those relationships. Markenson lost his mom in the 2010 earthquake- her grave site is in the compound of his home, marked by a cross. He lives with his brother. Enock is a younger guy who is very friendly. He introduced us to his family- mom, his younger brother and his friend who was finishing up his dinner at their home. A cow, a bull and chicken roamed about the yard. Funnily enough, after I finished praying for some patients in the triage, he asked me if I were a Catholic or a Protestant. It felt great to tell him I'm a follower of Jesus. Was that a cop out? If it was, I don't care.

I could take hours to write about the great helpers we have- Philippe who doesn't take a lunch break in the triage, Robbins who lost his dad last week and is trying to raise funds for his funeral, all the while spending entire days with us at the clinic, and so many others.

I came down with a cough and mild feverishness on Day 6, but I’m quickly recovering. The chik virus doesn’t bring about sniffles and Dr. Tom told me it is good to have the cold as viruses compete for dominance of the body. So if you have the cold, the chik virus may not get a chance to operate.

We distributed Bibles in church today, the Creole version of NIV. Everyone wanted one- where there is a famine for the word of God people treasure their Bibles.

“I think Farmer taps into a universal anxiety and also into a fundamental place in some troubled consciences, into what he calls "ambivalence," the often unacknowledged uneasiness that some of the fortunate feel about their place in the world, the thing he once told me he designed his life to avoid.”

― Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

No comments: