“I never knew how strong I was until now.” Anonymous Haitian a couple of months after the earthquake
I say anonymous because I lost track of the emailed article I received months ago, which included one of my fellow countrymen reflecting on the earthquake and its impact on his life. Just before going to Haiti this past August, I spoke with my young niece just returned from her trip there.
“How are people faring?” I asked her. To my surprise, she said they were doing just fine.
“Really?” I said.
Yes, she said. People hadn’t lost their sense of humor; they were working, living their lives, staying positive. I didn’t believe her and checked in with a close friend of mine.
“Well,” she said to me, “I wouldn’t exactly characterize it that way but it’s just that people here are so used to the chaos that they adjust to whatever new crap they get hit with.” That felt a little closer to the truth.
The word “resilient” is the one most often used in the press and in general to describe Haitians. We’re resilient all right. So much so that renowned Haitian author Edwidge Danticat had to point out in a recent article that just because Haitians are resilient doesn’t mean they should be expected to put up with much more. In fact, after three weeks there, I would say amen to that.
People are stretched so tight all I can think about is the sharp sting that results when the taught rubber band reaches that thin, ever thinner, past thinnest point: OUCH! Followed by tears and wailing like when a baby gets hurt. Yet it’s true that, in the face of a landscape that looks as if the earthquake took place just one month ago rather than eight, still, life goes on. Much like any other tragedy that befalls human beings—crushing heartbreak, debilitating illness, loss of a home—somehow one must find the courage to push through. When all you’d rather do is cry, how else do you deal with gnawing hunger other than to get yourself to the supermarket, buy some food, cook it and then eat it? That’s most of us. Others step out into the street, carry a sign asking for help, beg people in their cars for spare change, and then eat the doughnut or sandwich they were able to score for the day. In the case of a populace, whose politicians have historically looked away* while enriching themselves, all it can do is pray for a better day while doing its best on every other front. I could be talking about America here but I am referring to Haiti, which is a microcosm of what’s happening all over the world. (*Corrupt Haitian politicians are just one part of the complex equation.)
Tension is up in Haiti, as is crime, despair and ever-more deplorable living conditions for the poor and the middle class. But belief in God is through the roof! That proverbial better day? How long ‘til it comes? Give me strength! people ask while looking up at the sky. Faith that the strength will be provided is a given in Haiti. And in the end, that’s a good thing. May it last.
How are you? people ask about my state of mind, and about my life in general. What else can I say? Fine, just fine. Excellent, in fact.