Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prayer for Haiti

This is close to my heart, not only because of the devastation, but because my husband and I have so many Haitian friends. Boston has a huge Haitian population (and has had a Haitian presence since at least the early 19th century, according to an archaeologist friend who researched it). Two stories have been on my mind:


A friend I'll call Celeste came to the U.S. as a child. Her parents divorced when she was young, and, Parent Trap-style, her father took her and immigrated to the U.S., while her sister remained with their mother in Haiti. (Unlike the Parent Trap, however, the sisters were always aware of the arrangement). In the late '90s, when she was in her twenties, she returned to Haiti to visit for the first time, accompanied by her American roommate who I'll call Karen.

What awaited them was a shock. From the time she was able to work, Celeste sent money to her mom and sister and she knew in her head that they were poor, but she didn't realize the extent of it. IIRC, she and Karen found her mother and sister living in a shack without electricity or running water; water had to be pumped from a well. I can only imagine what that must have been like for Celeste; here she was, educated, working a good job and living in a nice apartment, while her sister lived in squalor, and she knew it was merely chance that she had been the one her father brought to the U.S.

In addition to her mother and sister in this small home, two teenage cousins had lived there as well since the death of their parents, as well as another young man and his family. The young man had been a neighbor of Celeste's mom and sister as a child, and they'd taken him in after his parents died. Now he was a grown man, with a wife and small child of his own.

He was also the only one in the household with a job, given the high unemployment rate in Haiti. He could have chosen to take care of only his small family, but he gladly supported the entire household, because he was so grateful to Celeste's mother for taking him in when he had no one.

Celeste and Karen brought two suitcases each to Haiti, one carrying their own clothes and personal items, and the other carrying clothing and toiletries they had purchased for Celeste's family. When they presented their gifts, Celeste's mom promptly gave everything away to others in the neighborhood. Seeing this so moved them that when they departed, Celeste and Karen left behind almost everything they'd brought with them, returning to the U.S. with only the clothes on their backs, their pocketbooks and their passports.


Another friend, who I'll call Martine, used to ask me to pray often that her son could come from Haiti. Martine immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult, and her "son" was actually the son of her closest childhood friend. Martine had agreed to adopt the boy and bring him to the U.S. in order to give him a better life. It took many years to work out the adoption and immigration process. I think the boy was about eight when they started, and he was fourteen when he finally arrived in the U.S. a few years ago.


As I think about the loss of life and devastation, I can't help but wonder what has happened to Celeste's mother and sister, her cousins, and the young man and his family who lived with them. Or to the mother of Martine's son. And for them and many other friends of ours back in Boston, what has become of their friends and family members who remained in Haiti? My heart and prayers go out to them all.

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