From Wynn Walent, Home Correspondent, NPFS Haiti
Several weeks ago Father Rick recounted the story of an old friend who carries two stones in his pocket. On one stone is written, I am nothing. On the other is written, I am everything. This friend refers to these stones often, taking one out of his pocket when he feels it is needed. When asked for an explanation, Father’s friend described the importance of embracing our strengths and being completely fearless when employing them for good, while at the same time being always cognizant of our limits and of the larger context in which we are living.
In many ways this is the story of our work and our daily lives here. The images beamed across the world of loss, pain, and devastation are ever present and undeniable. Equally present however, tucked inside of the long labor of each day, are the joys and beauties that surround us here, bittersweet as they may be at times. The smiles and laughter of the children of St. Damien’s Hospital; the first steps of a child in Kay Germaine walking on a new prosthetic leg; the electricity that emanates from the children as they sing and celebrate mass at our home in Kenscoff. These things are as powerful as ever and they serve as a reminder of just how lucky we are to be able to offer the services that we provide. The worlds of St. Damien Hospital, of Kay Germaine Rehabilitation Facility, and of our home in Kenscoff are not perfect. There are problems, renovations needed, unfinished projects, and real difficulties and challenges to be confronted each day, but there are also committed and organized people working to make things better, and hope bubbles constantly as things move in a positive direction for the children.
The caregivers at Kenscoff as well as the doctors, nurses, and therapists of the hospital, work tirelessly. Support and donations continue to stream in from our fundraising offices around the world. Volunteer drivers truck back and forth from the home in the DR to Haiti, arriving exhausted and relieved to deliver needed goods. Children wave from hospital windows shouting happily to a passerby. Kenscoff workers sit outside combing the hair of the children and preparing to celebrate mass. Kay Germaine continues to take in and serve the so often forgotten children with neurological disorders that are overwhelming even to parents who have unlimited resources, not to mention families living in a tent city. Our Angels of Light Program, which enlists the work and talents of over 100 ex-pequenos, provides a long term response to the incredible need in Port au Prince, serving 2 meals a day to 1200 children living in tent cities, in addition to providing them enrichment and academic support. In all of these areas there is real progress, achievement, and joy as we witness lives improving. In this way we continue to work, holding the I am everything stone and making progress with each step.
Outside of the walls of NPFS people are suffering tremendously. In addition to our long-term programs and investments, we distribute goods and food to other areas of the country helping to feed, clothe, and comfort those in need. The aid is simply not enough, and there are a great number of people who will continue living and dying in inhumane conditions that should be unacceptable. Whether in Port au Prince or in the provinces, the magnitude of the problems and the suffering facing the future of the nation are beyond staggering. It is in these moments that we see the I am nothing stone, and we feel the weight of the problems facing Haiti.
The important fact with regard to this stone, the I am nothing stone, is that it is not a call to inaction, or an invitation to lay down our arms and surrender. It is the opposite. Our recognition of the fact that we are but a small oasis in a desert of pain should compel us to continue working through the long days, feeling lucky that we are in a position to offer some support to some people, in a land where the majority are not so fortunate. The joy and pride and gratitude is real, and the fact that it is tempered by an understanding of its limits does not cheapen it, but rather helps it to grow.
After January 12th, the government mandated that all hospitals provide free care for three months. This will end tomorrow. The rainy season has begun and it will lead into hurricane season and even more suffering for the many Haitians currently living without shelter or medical care. Here we are lucky, and despite all of the challenges and problems, we are cared for. In the morning we will wake up dry and eat our breakfast. We will celebrate mass in the chapel and share peace and comforting words. We will have the privilege of working and helping for another day. On the outside of the walls there are so many without hope or even the most basic resources, and sadly many are left without ways to contribute to the solution.
As the sun sets over St. Damiens Hospital, and down through the hills of Kenscoff, we rejoice in the work of each day and are thankful to be in a position to help. After the sun sets it will begin to rain, as it does every evening of late, and we will be reminded again of the countless outside who are suffering. The only thing to be done is to continue to reach those that we can, and continue rejoicing in the work and successes of each day, knowing that simultaneously our work is nothing, and that it is everything.