Haiti. What is the message?

Haiti. Where to begin? What to say? No words. What a surprise.

Seeing Bush and Clinton together yesterday reminded me about the best of Americans. It’s no secret that I think Bush is just this side of the devil, but watching his first venture out of retirement with Clinton on the news programs Sunday morning, I am reminded that the good in each of us lies in our ability to come together when necessary, when anyone needs us across this globe we all call home. Thanks George, I know it was not easy to do it, especially when idiot pundits start asking about the parallels between Katrina and Haiti, and what did you learn in Katrina that will help you deal with this more productively?

No tragedy this great has a parallel. It is unique unto itself. And, so was Katrina, and so was 9-11. Let us look at it without the haze of the past tragedies and let it have its own moment in time.

But, here is the thing. Haiti was a poor country in dire straights long before this earthquake rocked her shores. Actually, it’s the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Port-au-Prince is a city built to house 400,000 but 2,000,000 people live(d) there. For decades, the US has put billions into Haiti with little or no improvement in the quality of life for its citizens. Haiti’s crushing debt service of $50 billion per year has made her unable to grow, and the corruption that is as consistent as the lapping shores has made it virtually impossible for true change to take place. Lifting the trade restrictions is a must. Trying to make sure the billions of donated dollars get where they are supposed to go is another. You don’t give a five-year-old $100 in a candy store and expect them to buy a glass of water. Oversight. O V E R S I G H T.

What now for we individuals who feel compelled to do something? How to help? For me, it’s not money to one group or another. I’m not sure what I will do, but I think I will do it a year from now. I want to marinate in this feeling of obligation for awhile. I don’t want to purge it with a contribution in this compelling moment. I want to take time; put together a personal plan to do something that will be more than open my checkbook. Perhaps sponsor someone to come here and go to college; asking friends to group together to do it? Go down there for a month and build something with friends and family? I don’t know, but I do know that a $10 text message isn’t going to do it for me. Not this time. I did that with Katrina, and while it felt good in the moment, it wasn’t really the answer.

Haiti’s future is the gift from this tragedy.  That is the opportunity, or the glass half full, or the hope for a tomorrow. And, while it’s hard to even think about that right now, that’s the future for Haiti. It was bad before and we didn’t notice. I’m reminded yet again of the fabulous Oprah who said, “God first whispers to you, if you don’t listen, he speaks a little louder. If you still don’t listen, he hits you over the head.” Ok, you have my attention. I will not look away. I promise.

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