Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reflections from Haiti – Fr. Tony Wroblewski Part 1

I’ve just returned from the house of the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters) in the city of Hinche. I am now realizing the great gamut of emotions I’ve been feeling the past few days. Though today was the first time since I arrived in Haiti a few days ago that I felt an overwhelming sadness – my heart broken over seeing so, so many sick people in the sisters’ home – especially the children. The sisters were wonderful. But the plight of the children broke my heart. The sisters take them in – they have no place to go. Their legs and arms are thin to the bone, and their stomachs distended like balloons from malnutrition. More and more have HIV and other illnesses, but they can get no medicine that could help them. (I am made aware of the immense amount of samples that are given freely to clinics in the US.) And yet, these children hold out their arms – only wanting a loving embrace – the smallest human touch which would validate their humanity – their dignity. And there are so many.

As I said, the range of emotions I have felt is wide. Landing in Port Au Prince I was guarded. Flying to Hinche, and then landing in that tiny dirt path they called a runway, I must admit was frightening. The next few days, I felt a building sense of joy. The people here are so warm and inviting, despite their utter poverty, what most of us in the US would describe as destitution. But they carry on. They muddle through.

But today I am overwhelmed. I wonder – where is the light at the end of the tunnel? How do they find hope in the midst of all this? And why was I, and not them, so blessed? These questions gnaw at my soul. I have no answers.

Time to pray…

I’ve just opened my prayer book. The first line read: “…the Lord looks tenderly on those who are poor.” I sure hope so. And later on: “…endure joyfully whatever may come.”

We ate supper tonight, and then enjoyed each other’s company with a game of cards. In speaking with Lyle, a doctor with us, he indicated that most of those people we saw today, especially the children, wouldn’t be in such dire circumstances in the US. In fact, they probably wouldn’t be ill at all. In his own words, he said in the US these diseases no longer even exist. There was a little boy – his name was Jean (John) – who was going to die very soon. He couldn’t be more than a year old, though with the malnutrition it is so very hard to tell the children’s ages. He suffered from anemia and malnutrition, which in turn brought about heart failure. His parents brought him to the sisters too late. There is nothing that can be done. So the sisters are helping him, and of course his family, to die with some dignity. I’ve seen so much poverty, and yet tomorrow I am told we will be seeing the very poor! The mission will be giving them, their families, enough food to live for a month. If the mission wasn’t here, they would most likely die. I am told that there will be hundreds here, those who have no other recourse. Words seem inadequate to express what I now feel in my heart and soul.

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