Thank you all for your supportive comments. They are really encouraging. Now that I’ve had more time to reflect on the experience I’ve realized that besides just a few minutes of hesitation right after the quake, I did the right things at the right time. If I’d stayed after dark, it really would have been impossible to do anything productive. I want to believe that my motives were pure when I left, but whether they were pure or not, it turned out to be the right thing and when we came back the next morning we pulled out 6 live girls.
I want to show you the comment I liked the best:
“I honestly don’t know if leaving was the right thing to do. Only you can say whether it was fear and emotional exhaustion that drove you away from the school, or if you left because you truly thought you could do more good by going home. Either way, you were pushed as far as you could go, and you made the best decision you could in the circumstances. Whichever way you chose, you would have second-guessed that decision for the rest of your life, and that is the hallmark of a compassionate person.
What surprises me is your comments about the other people on the street- that they didn’t stop to help. This is similar to what I saw on a video taken immediately after the earthquake. People milling around, people running through the streets, but very little direct action to aid the survivors as they cleared themselves out of the rubble.
A little more support for you, the help of a few neighbors with even basic tools, would have made all the difference for those girls.
What happened? Why didn’t people stop to help the strangers directly in front of them?”
I feel good today. The reason is that I feel God has gave me a gift. I know that sounds crazy, but I will explain. The work that we do with Biosand filters saves the lives of many, many children, but it often feels like a thankless task, and in the last year, it’s not only felt thankless, but we’ve felt persecuted as well. The arson attack and death threat were very discouraging for us. I was at a place where I needed to feel like I was helping people hands-on, not just suffering persecution here in Haiti for no reason.
On Tuesday, God put me in the place where I was needed. I’m absolutely certain that God knew exactly where he intended for that truck to break down and then made it happen. He chose me because he knew I would climb under the slab when others wouldn’t, and I had the resources available to later come back with the CWH crew and take the rest of the girls out of the school. It feels good to do God’s work, and every time we pulled out a girl my heart hurt a little bit less.
Now comes the part where I might upset some people, so I won’t be offended if you decide to scroll down to one of Leslie’s posts instead.
The second part of the comment I like too because it asks hard questions about Haitians in particular and human nature in general.
First off, everywhere in the world there are good people and bad, brave people and cowards. Immediately after the quake, most people could only thing about finding their loved ones. I knew that not only were Leslie and Olivia outside of Port au Prince, but our house is very strong and I didn’t need to worry about them. Obviously, in an emergency like that everyone should immediately start to help right where they are, but if my family had been living in a poorly build house in another part of Port au Prince I might have taken off running.
Also, there were people helping even if they didn’t know where their families were, even on Tuesday night. The guy who found me the hammer, brought water, and helped me haul out the heavier bits of rubble was a guy named Samson, and without him it would have been so much worse. We saw him the next day when we came back, too, and he never stopped working. On Wednesday when we arrived, we found people who had been working through the night. They were really happy to see the tools we brought, but they weren’t afraid to do the hard work. Towards the end of the day, there was only one hole left with live people in it but there were men working in the other holes to remove the bodies.
Finally, it’s way, way easier to do the right thing when you have an example to follow. There are a lot of Haitians that have good in them, but are afraid to do the right thing. Our own experiences in Haiti are proof that no good deed goes unpunished, so to speak. In Haiti, the politicians work to fill their own pockets, but not to advance the country or help the people to feed themselves. There is not a single document or government function I can think of as I sit here that doesn’t require bribes to be paid. Our own adoption of Olivia has taken two years (so far) because we haven’t been willing to put money in pockets. Successful businessmen in Haiti stay that way by worrying about their own affairs and not worrying about Haiti’s “unsolvable” problems. They work within the corruption instead of fighting against it. If the typical Haitian countryman seems selfish, it’s because he’s taken his example from the country’s leaders.
I don’t pretend to know the solution to Haiti’s problems, but I have a few ideas I want to talk to Obama about! I’ll leave that for another day, perhaps – I want to spend some time loving my family.