Yesterday, a colleague and I sat with a student who had recently come from Haiti with his mother, father, and sister in search of a better life. Like many migrant stories, his began when he was just a toddler and his father left to make the way for them to join him in N. America. The family had finally been reunited just a few years ago amidst tears and adjustments and so much love. Now, each of them worries over the family left behind, the friends who longed to make the journey but hadn’t, the places and life that was still more real to them the one they have now.
We waited with him as he checked for emails from anyone he knew in a corner. We listened to the frantic sound of keystrokes on both the keyboard and his cellphone as he sent out urgent feelers to everyone he could think of. All the while, he sat in his chair, quiet and unassuming. He didn’t want anyone to see. He didn’t want anyone else to worry.
When he rose to leave, his face was a mask he’d likely been wearing since he was appointed “man of the house” as a toddler by his father. And when we asked him “Did you find them?” He only smiled at us and said “No. But it will be okay.”
As we rush to send aid to the Haitians trapped in Port au Prince, let’s not forget the Haitians right here in N. America longing for a word from their families and friends and still hearing nothing.
A lot of people yesterday talked about not having money, vacation time, or medical skills to be effective in Haiti, but wanting to do something. Think about whether or not there are Haitians in your community and the gifts of compassion you can share with them during this crisis. Maybe it is just an offer of coffee and a chance to talk, maybe just silently being there, or maybe you can make a meal for someone to distraught to cook themselves or remember to eat. Whatever you do, don’t let distance from Haiti stop you because there are people suffering right here who need you too.
(And for those of us who pray, there are prayer groups forming all over the country for Haiti, many lead by Haitian churches or churches with large Haitian populations like the one from Philly pictured at top. You can join one or start one and who knows to what other works that might lead.)