A view from a roof in Port au Prince


Feed the hungry, clothe the naked

I've acquired a new posse. Today our bonds grew deeper and stronger.

I walk the same dirt path almost daily to the little town a mile and half away. My typical walk includes several kids yelling and pointing at me because I am white. They are fascinated. They run to me barefoot and usually naked or missing several key pieces of clothing. They would also like a piece of candy or dollar and figure maybe they can squeeze one out of me. So I guess I'm a bit of a hopeful sign, because often times I do have candy. A few boys stick by me after the candy is gone, come to hold my hand and walk with me even when I don't have anything to give them. Last week I started carrying a frisbee with me on my walks and we play frisbee as we walk the path together. Today a teenage girl joined us. She knew my name and I vaguely remembered meeting her on this path before. She claimed a spot on my left side and left the little boys to share my right side. Our fingers locked together as we held hands and conversation flowed freely. She told me that she does manicures and pedicures and we planned that one day I will bring my laptop to her home and we can watch a movie together. She is happy-go-lucky, as thin as a rail, has a beautiful smile and is kind.

We now had 4 in our group, and with me this made 5. The kids are really good at sharing. They took over carrying my purse and carrying my frisbee. They would pass out candy to other kids and make sure each person had one piece. They shared the frisbee with the kids we walked by. They asked me where I was headed and when I told them, they said they would walk the whole way. I knew the walk, my visit to Michelet's home, and  then my walk home takes quite a lot of time. It shouldn't surprise me anymore, but they didn't even have to tell a parent or anyone where they were going. Only the oldest girl had sandals on. The others walked barefoot on the rocky road that I sometimes stumbled on even with my sandals sturdily guarding my feet. When we arrived to Michelet's house, the sight of his mother horrified me. I don't know if my words do justice to what I experienced today. Michelet's mom has been very sick the past few days. She is completely out of it- no speaking or eating. She lies lifeless. The only sign of life are her blinking eyes and rising chest as she breathes. I saw her like this two days ago and gave the dad money to bring her on a moto to a hospital. I'm not sure what happened, but today she was back home, but not any better.

I walked into their home as I always do. I usually look for Michelet first and scoop him into my arms to hold him.  The first sight upon entering the room was the mom lying on the mud floor of the hut, almost naked, spare her underwear. She was covered head to toe in dirt and she had clearly soiled herself. She was all alone in the room. Her mouth was full of dirt and mosquitoes were flying around her eyes and making their way into her open mouth. I couldn't believe she was lying here alone when she lives with so many sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews and her mother-in-law. Why wasn't anyone helping her? They family explained that she would not stay in bed that she had already been bathed twice that day.  I asked for the gloves I had brought them a few days ago. I put them on and my new teenage friend put on a pair too. I said we needed to give Michelet's mom another bath. She was filthy and deserved more respect then this. It was not a pleasant experience. Her body was dead weight and we had to pick up every pound on our own to move her body. We scrubbed and cleansed. Her 70 something year-old mother in law helped, but the rest of the crowd just stood and watched. For the sake of dignity I asked that if they were not helping that they would not stand and stare, but my pleas made no difference.

Michelet's mom screamed, then broke into a hysterical laugh. Not the joyful kind of laugh, but the terrifying, evil type of laugh. There was dirt in her mouth that seeped through her missing teeth. I hoped I wasn't exposing the kids to something more than they could handle. The neighbors and kids that she lives with laughed at her and mocked her as she howled and cackled. I told the kids I came with not to laugh and they listened and continued helping me. I asked the others to stop laughing. That if they were sick like this, they would want people to stop laughing and to help them instead. It made me sad about the Haitian culture. We dried her body and put on clean underwear and a clean dress, laid out a new sheet on the floor and placed her head on a pillow. I left them with a plate of food and instructed the grandma to feed the smallest kids the meat. I had only eaten half of my lunch  and skipped out on eating meat so that I could save the rest of my food for them. Funny how in the US, we were all raised hearing the cliche "what about the starving kids in Africa?" when we wasted food. Now it's so much more practical. Every time I eat less or waste less, it means I can give more to one of the hungry kids or families that lives right outside my gates. Imagine that.

We walked back the same way we started the afternoon- hand in hand and taking breaks along the way to throw the frisbee or pass out more candy. The boys were trying to teach me a song in Kreyol. The kids had given their whole afternoon to helping a family they didn't know, to holding my hand and to supporting me as I acted on a conviction I had in my heart to help a sick person. I am so proud of my friends :)
My friend Kervens, who accompanies me on my walks :)

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