I was more in line with life
More mature, when I was 13
I didn’t have the confusion of arrogant assumptions or the world screaming in my brain
I knew what was right and wrong
I knew what belonged in the world
It was the year I wanted to be a missionary
My Catholic family had ties to a doctor who every year took others & his family to help those less fortunate. He went to Peru and Haiti. He worked with Mother Teresa’s nuns. He knew her personally. He did it as a vocation, to help the needy, those poorer that poor.
I decided I wanted to go too.
I asked my mom to make an appointment to meet with him. I remember sitting in front of him. He was a big man, a gentle giant. He was so soft spoken. I felt calm in his presence.
He spoke to me about being so young, third world countries and then he pulled out a pistol. He asked, “Does this scare you? I have to carry this with me in Haiti, it isn’t always a safe place.”
It didn’t scare me. I was stupid then, still am. I think I thought I would live forever. I still do, most times.
I remember finding out I could only wear skirts. Because the nuns. I was not happy about that stupidity.
I flew to Port-au-prince, Haiti on a puddle jumper plane praying Hail Mary’s the whole time knowing we were gonna crash.
We arrived in a third world airport. I almost kissed the ground. Thank you God, not dead!
Assaulted by heat, sounds, I was fascinated & enamored. My first foray into a new land & I was so thrilled. I’d have something to write about in my diary!
Then we were driven through the streets. The thing I remember most are the stray animals.
Starving, sick, so alone & unloved. I was in tears seeing them.
Then we got to The House of the Dying. It was. It was a place of endless cots, quiet, calm people with nothing.
The Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa and her nuns had a literal house of the dying.
In Haiti the sick without money or means to care for themselves are just dumped out into the street.
Like stray dogs.
The Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order of nuns would go out and pick them up, take them in, feed, warm, sooth, love them until they died.
That night we had to sleep upstairs, no air conditioning, voodoo drums in the distance. We drank Fanta and ate Pringles, that supper, our first supper. I realized that the nuns had given us a feast. They were so much better than me.
I complained in my mind, the whole time.
We had to go downstairs, upon waking. Kneel on cement & pray in front of Jesus. It was so sweltering hot, yet so peaceful. I felt like I belonged.
My first day, it was overwhelming, cool morning, open air room filled with beds & people, nuns bustling and busy, me just standing there. A nun grabbed me and put a tube of salve in my hand. “Here, put this on his leg.”
He was an old Haitianman in the last stages of syphillis. He had a hole in his leg. There was a fly going in & out. I put salve on him. He only spoke French. I tried to talk to him. I remember his gentle eyes. He put me at ease, he let me care for him. He was so weak. I had to feed him and many others.
The food was a mush, kind of like oatmeal & grits. I remember looking at it and seeing tiny bugs in it. I was appalled, in disbelief. How could they have not noticed this!?
I ran to a nun and said, “They can’t eat this, it’s full of bugs!”
She said, “It’s all we have”
I felt so small
I went back to him.
He looked at me and I knew right then that he was so much better than me.
He allowed me to give to him something I needed. He allowed me to love.
He died two days later and it was sad yet accepted. I knew that he found peace, finally.
He was a man who taught me nobility.
I was only 13, but I learned more than I ever will again, I believe.
*photo taken at orphanage in Haiti run by the Sisters of Charity