Being back in "civilization" is a bizarre adjustment. I know how odd this sounds but in a very strange way i miss Port Au Prince. It's hard to walk down the street here knowing that there is no chance a little child you've never met will suddenly take your hand and look up and say "hey you". I miss that simple kindness that they offer. Their smiles, their open hearts, and their incredible perseverance. I sat in the Miami airport listening to a man upset that they were out of his favorite candy bar and wonder where we've gone wrong.
I think the greatest lesson I learned during my two weeks in Haiti was the concept of what is truly important. It's cliche I realize but these people, who had so little before and have so much less now, are truly wiser than most of the people i have ever met including myself. I was and am astounded by their nobility, their willingness to offer you the one chair that they own to sit in, and their kindness. Unlike other poor places I have been in my life, I look back on Haiti and realize that in my time there, not one person put their hand out for money. Not one. And these are people who certainly need it. People asked us for water, and for food, which is understandable, and they asked for work as drivers, interpreters, bag carriers, but they did not ask for money. I think that says a lot. They are a strong proud people who continue to stand up tall every time they are knocked down and i was and am humbled by their ability to do so. I only hope that I can accept that into myself and not forget it as i invariably slip back into the corporate ad driven conspicuous consumption as happiness culture in which we live.
Personally coming back has been tough. For starters, I sit in my house with heat, electricity, running water which honestly confounds me at this point, and food in the fridge and I can't help but feel terrible that i have left friends behind who are sleeping on the street. My kids get up in the morning and go to their school everyday and 90% of the schools in Port Au Prince are gone and will not be back any time soon. I check the Haitian forecast every morning for fear that the rain will start as I know what that will mean to so many of the wonderful people I met. I wish i could do more fore them.
On a small level I have secured some tents and are sending them down for people i know. It will help them but it doesn't seem like enough.
My friend Andre who was there as a photojournalist said that coming back from these situations is always the same. Its like a huge emotional balloon that is instantly inflated and then over a month or so, a slow leak let's all the emotion out again. He's a wise man and I now understand what he is talking about.
I'm going to wrap up because there are things I'd rather not write about. If you have been reading this thank you for indulging me and allowing me to spill. I kept this blog as much for an outlet as I did to let people know what was going on down there and it has helped immensely.
Many people have asked what they can do to help and here is what i have told them. For starters, give as much as you can and continue to do so for as long as you can. Haiti will need help for 10 years and then some. Partners in Health is a great organization and can use everything they get and use it well. In addition, St Damiens, a free pediatric hospital in Port au Prince that i visited and have been sending supplies to is also a great operation. They are associated with an Orphanage called Friends of the Orphans and can always use your help. If you are a medical professional you can sign up with Partners in Health to go assist as well. If you want to do something specific, raise money and donate a Shelter Box which will save lives once the rains start.
But the best thing you can probably do is to help someone and you don't need t go to Haiti to do it. There are people and organizations that need help within a mile of where you live, I pretty much guarantee it. Seek them out and offer your time and actively help someone you don't know. And if you can, try to help people who are as different from you as possible. It will make you realize that deep down we are all human and have the same needs and will help you open up to people that you might not have before. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this? But of course it can't be unless we all start doing it ourselves first.