Haiti and Nicaragua are the two poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. I have visited the latter several times and we’ve heard much too sad news about the former for most of today.
I blogged earlier about Pat Robertson’s stupid comment which claimed in short (and I paraphrase here) that Haiti has been under some kind of curse by God. If that’s the case then God must hate an awful lot of people.
Two-thirds of the world live on less than $1 per day. Anyone here make more than that? We probably all do. Therefore we are amongst the world’s elite third. I’m sure Mr. Robertson makes more than the top 10 percent of the world. Maybe even the top 1 percent.
I haven’t been to Haiti, but I have seen poverty in Nicaragua. I’ve seen people living in garbage dumps scavenging for food to eat and goods to resell. I’ve seen young men who long to simply go to school working in the garbage dump, hoping that one day they will be able to leave this place of destitution. Most don’t. And the truth is that most die in the poverty that they live in.
The orphanage that I visited in Nicaragua was for abandoned and disabled children. Elvira was one of the little children that I loved to hold in the early mornings. Some love the morning paper, some a nice hot cup of coffee, some the Today Show, some quiet time to read or pray and some a big breakfast but I have never been more satisfied in the morning than I have been by simply holding this little girl in my arms in those early morning hours in a developing country.
Elvira couldn’t walk and couldn’t talk. She could giggle a little and her smile was broad and wide. All she wanted was to be touched and to be held. Poverty has a way of letting you appreciate the simple pleasures of a touch, a morsel of bread (without butter or jam, I might add), fresh water or a place to call home. It was Elvira who allowed me, the one who was supposed to be offering service, to get in touch with what it means to be poor. For I was unable to fix Elvira. I was unable to cure Elvira’s illness. Elvira didn’t need an iPod or a Wii.
All Elvira needed was me. I was enough for her and she was more than enough for me and she has been up to today–even though I sometimes need to remember that time spent with her and recall that fulfilling feeling of being and having enough.
Can we be enough for the people of Haiti? Can we call upon ourselves to live simpler, love deeper and reach farther than we usually bother to do? We should be able to be more than enough. Just $1/day, $365/year is often what people live on in this poor country. We usually have that to spare. Think about making a donation today to Catholic Relief Services or to the Jesuit Relief Services or to a charity of your choosing. We don’t know poverty in our country as they do in Haiti and that indeed is a crime in which we are all complicit by our indifference.
But also think about what is enough for people. Money goes a long way but time and presence often matters so much more. So when and if the opportunity presents itself…go to a place like Haiti and see what nobody should ever have to see and let it change you. Go and meet the Elviras of the world, who have nothing to offer you but their smiles and for whom YOU are more than enough.
It will change you. More than the pictures on CNN, more than the casualty numbers you read. The experience of these people will change you.
And if “enough” of us do that, we can change the world.