January 6, 2011

today is love.

this comes from the blog "today is love," written by my dear friend mary catherine. i have spoken of her a few times, like here. the words she uses, and the story she is telling, is something worth sharing. as a matter of fact, if you read nothing else of substance today please read this. i withhold telling you to "enjoy" like i typical do before sharing, after all this is not the story told in fairy tales. keep reading...  

This was not easy to write. Maybe it won’t be easy to read either. I’ve replayed it in my head dozens of times. My head pounds between my eyes and my knees begin to buckle.
We headed for the beach and a little R&R this weekend. As we sat down to eat on Saturday night I noticed a young Haitian woman.
She was absolutely stunning. In her early 20’s, beautifully coiffed with perfect features. There was something about her but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. Instead, I just kept staring and periodically pausing to eat as she tapped her long, painted nails on the blue table. There she sat with a middle-aged, Middle Eastern man in complete silence. She looked around at him and sometimes the dining room fixtures as he ate his pumpkin soup. It bothered me that they weren’t speaking and she wasn’t eating. I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a guest band on her wrist like he was.
I had remembered seeing him earlier that morning, alone. He sat by the pool smoking a cigarette, all in his business attire. Slickly dressed and pseudo important looking he talked loudly on a phone.
As we got up from the table to head back to our room they also stood to leave. I collided with her at the exit as she bustled quickly after him. I followed closely behind as they walked (once again) in complete silence.
They had nothing to discuss. They were strangers.
We stopped at our door as they continued walking. As they rounded the corner she fell slightly behind him. I looked up to find her staring directly into my eyes. It was one of those brief moments that feel like an eternity. It’s hard to put into words, but we stood at that moment and she shared something with me. It was like her fear, desperation, hurt, struggles—her heart—traveled across the distance between us and I understood.  And I understood what was about to happen when she went with him into that room.
I choked back knots in my throat as I saw him at the curb waiting to leave the next day. He was alone with his black suitcase. The sun seemed to reflect off his shiny, rich shoes.
I can’t stop thinking about that night and my freezing at the sight of epitomized injustice. It was one of those terrible dreams where you can move, can’t speak. I can’t stop thinking if there was something-anything- I could have done to stop her. Could I have even stopped her? Could I have talked to her? Could I have given her the money myself? Was that even the solution to her problem?
She wouldn’t have been there that night given the choice. I don’t know if any of us have ever been faced with a decision like that, “Sell my body or go without food? Sell my body or let my children go without food?” Maybe it’s me, but that rationale can be somewhat rational.
I don’t believe that the term “prostitution” exists in Haiti; however, the word trafficking does. Women here aren’t given a choice. The poor are not given a choice. There is no job that they can go out there and do to make money, there isno money. They live in absolute poverty- no clean water sources, food, basic shelter, medical care, or income. 10 million people cannot be asked to make something out of nothing.
A majority of the AIDS population in Haiti consists of women. Various reasons account for that statistic including U.S. and UN troops, and NGO aid-workers continually exploiting the desperately poor female population here. Who will allow them their dignity if not the very individuals who are here to “help” them? Perhaps multitudes of women in Haiti would not be so STD ridden and free of preventable disease if given jobs and dignified ways of alleviating their destitution.
We keep telling the Haitian people to make something, do something with outright nothing. We tell them to continue with their barren land, shrunken animals, a government who steals their money and poor health. Then we wonder why they pay and bargain with sex. The world wants Haiti to put up a fight; yet, currently they are too busy being incapacitated by Cholera (another completely preventable and treatable disease) to raise their gloves. 
I keep thinking about how I am going to get on a plane next week, and I am going to fly to be with my family for the holidays. Haitians don’t have the luxury of getting on a plane and escaping their lives. Instead they find themselves trapped inside with limitless and unbounded problems. I’m haunted with questions like: “Why them? Why not me? Why was I born in a place that seeks to protect me? What kind of privilege is that? How do I use my privilege for their sake?” Over and over in my head, I can’t stop thinking about the pain human beings knowingly inflict upon their brothers and sisters. And at what cost?
More and more I hear Haiti discussed in social circles, I see it on the news, and it’s widely talked about among the International community. People want to help, but most at no personal expense. We give up because we don’t know where to even begin. We send our money and block out the injustice because it’s too hard to be that vulnerable or care about something so impossible. We do it because that way we never have to feel the pain of knowing justice was never received on the lacking end. 
Right now, I don’t have any good answers. Only lots {and lots} of questions and hope that one day soon, answers will come. 
All of this and I am still hopeful because He sustains and can be taken at His word. There couldn’t be anything in the world more deserving of hope than that. I am hopeful that He is rising up people at this very moment, even people who are reading this, to declare freedom for all Haitians. People who aren’t afraid to love so desperately that it hurts. Those who refuse to back down when starring into eyes of the adversary. And people who are rightfully angered by suffering, who do not stand for the continued degradation of women. 
There are so many things hoped for. 
where there is love, there is art.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. So well written and so moving, touching. It wonderful there are people out there that feel the way she does, the sympathy and pain towards others...