The immediacy has died down

The immediacy has died down. The fervent fever pitch has subsided. The situation in Haiti isn’t any less severe; it’s just that daily responsibilities crowded their way back into our lives. I had to return to work. The kids needed to finish homework, go to guitar lessons and pack lunches for school.

Then the snowstorm hit. Our neighborhood banded together. We dug out cars, and dropped in chairs. School was cancelled. The kids dug tunnels and we went sledding at the local hill, piling six kids on a single truck inner tube. Inside the house, it was hot chocolate, Wii, coloring, Uno and Sorry.

But the misery in Haiti never leaves my mind. It’s like a sensitive tooth. I try to eat ice cream without it touching that back molar, but I can’t. I cannot ignore the suffering of so many in Haiti – where life was so hard even before the quake.

The novelty of the snow has worn off, the kids have to return to school, the stuff I put on hold is piling up. But all I want to do is turn everything else off and just read about Haiti. Not the articles circulating about how to rebuild or who is to blame. Not scrolling updates or intermittent tweets on my iPhone. But a book that gives me depth, real stories about Haiti. Stories that will remind me of my own experiences there.

I miss Haitian food, pica lese, the spicy shredded cabbage and carrots you pile onto fried plantains. I want to hear again the drip of rain on corrugated tin, feel the absolute fatigue of trying to hold up my end of a conversation in creole. And yet, deep down, I know that I will always be an outsider. And there is more than skin color and language that separate me from the Haitians I know.

I’ve been frustrated by the impossibility of contacting our Haitian friends, by not knowing how well they’re coping with this crisis. News trickles in like water dripping from the icicles growing from the box gutters of our Pittsburgh home. So we have few answers for friends and supporters here who want to know what’s happening.

I’m frustrated with not being there. Like so many other who’ve been touched by events unfolding on the TV, I want to do something. I know at this point I can gather resources to bring with our summer teams, spread the word for the need to be involved long term, and build up a community here to help the Haitians we know.

What an irony it is, our disgust at the city’s lack of a response to the snow, to the need for clear roads. There is no 911 in Haiti – or even a 311 line, like here Pittsburgh. And those mounds of concrete and rubble will not melt in a month.

Here, snowbound, we stay inside and sip hot chocolate. Haitians are sleeping outside, under sheets tied to trees. We’ve run to the store to buy milk and bread. I read of doctors who, lacking anesthesia, ran out to a hardware store and bought saws for amputations.

Sometimes the context of our lives overlaps with the lives of others, and this is where we make contact. When you know your neighbor, you want to help. A friend once told me “when it gets personal, it gets compassionate.”

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