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Archive for January, 2010

A year ago yesterday, I learned I had been selected by Audrey Gruber, producer of CBS News The Early Show to represent the over 55 crowd looking for a job in 2009.

A year ago today, I left for a spiritual retreat in Atlanta, Georgia, at which I met a gentleman who was from Haiti. We were in some of the same groups and shared some meals together. Already active in economic affairs, he was working to establish a non-profit organization that could provide education and training to help develop a stronger infrastructure for his native island.

After hearing my story, he nicknamed me, la célébrité, and shared it with anyone within earshot, including on the tram at Hartsfield Airport as we headed home, New York for him and Dover for me. Each time I chuckled, partly with embarrassment, partly at the wonderful lilt of his French accent mingled with Caribbean inflection, and partly out of excitement for the journey I was about to undertake. We exchanged a few emails over the ensuing months, and he included me in some of the goings on of his group.

A week ago Tuesday, we were all shocked at the news that our neighbors in the Caribbean had experienced a catastrophic earthquake that crumbled many buildings and left thousands dead and many more homeless. We soon learned that the number could be well over a hundred thousand. Not only were there at least 33 aftershocks and a growing death toll, many of the infrastructures of hospitals, transportation and communication systems were also affected, causing the UN to call this the worst catastrophe it had ever encountered (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake).

A couple of days ago we learned that at least one person was pulled from the rubble alive. While we knew that so so many did not make it and most assuredly the bodies of most wouldn’t even be recoverable by their families, this was a moment of rejoicing and thankfulness for the efforts of many from around the world who put their own lives at risk to offer aid.

Our Caribbean friends and visitors to the island have been sleeping outside for fear of building collapse; they may never find their relatives and friends who were victims of the earthquake; their need for water, medical care, food, shelter, and safety is monumental and encumbered by the vastness of the need and the organization needed to administer the help.

I claim no expertise on how the help should be happening. I have no knowledge about whether or not things are being done properly. I do know that there are those who would say, “charity begins at home.” I have no quarrel with that as charity begins with taking care of my neighbor. I know that my answer to that old question of  “Who is my neighbor?” can be answered simply: “the people of Haiti.”

I know that each of us doing a small part can make a big difference. Whether you choose to donate a dollar or a million dollars, do it, and make sure the organization you give to is valid. I have chosen to make my donation through UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) because I know this organization gives 100% of all receipts to relief. You can also actively participate by making Health Kits and delivering them to a church in your area that is collecting them:

* 1 hand towel (15″ x 25″ up to 17″ x 27″; no kitchen towels)
* 1 washcloth
* 1 comb (large and sturdy, not pocket-sized)
* 1 nail file or fingernail clippers (no emery boards or toenail clippers)
* 1 bath-size bar of soap (3oz. and up)
* 1 toothbrush (single brushes only in original wrapper; no child-size brushes)
* 6 adhesive plastic strip sterile bandages
* $2.00 for UMCOR to purchase toothpaste in bulk and help pay their shipping costs

I have no knowledge of where my friend is or how he has been affected by this disaster. I do know that having met him, I feel a personal connection to this island nation that has suffered so much. For me, he is the face of Haiti, and it is in his honor that I give my donations. And it is his face I see as I say my prayers.

To modify a well-known phrase, “Mon ami, this one’s for you.”

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