We are all watching the news, witnessing the devastation that is occurring in Haiti. We see the horror, the desperation. We can not believe it. We can not fathom it. We donate money. Even if it seems so little. We are outsiders looking in wanting only to help.
My eyes close. My townhouse complex has collapsed. My heart rate accelerates as I frantically look for my family. Tears of joy mix with the ones of guilt. Mine have survived. Others, neighbors and friends, have not. We leave, looking for help, only to find our entire town destroyed.
My eyes open. A nightmare.
A nightmare the Haitian people can not wake up from. Their eyes forever imprinting the death, destruction and desperation around them. Haitian tears flowing, a kaleidoscope of grief and relief, horror and humanity (we hope).
A few weeks ago, an entire townhouse complex next to the one I live in went up in flames. Fortunately, all people and pets made it out alive. Everything else though, gone. Explaining this to a sensitive three-year old was a challenge. We stressed that the firefighters came and helped and got everybody out and safe. People safe. Firefighters good. A simple message for a difficult situation. She seems okay with my explanation.
A few days later we are walking to preschool on the path between our townhouse complex and the one that burned.
“It’s not fixed yet mommy?”
Which is when I realize that perhaps I have shielded her too much. I shake my head. How do I explain the permanency, the tragedy of this without terrifying and scarring her?
Three-year olds are walking the streets of Port-au-Prince as I type this, passing by crumbled walls, collapsed buildings, and dead bodies. If they are one of the lucky ones, they are with their mother and father who are trying, desperately trying, to shield them from the horrors that abound. Only the horrors surround through smells of decay and screams, whimpers and cries of desperation. A mother will only be able to protect so much. Meeting immediate needs of food, shelter and water take precedence over shielding their eyes and ears. My heart breaks for those mothers whose hearts are breaking for their children whose hearts are breaking for the sky that has fallen upon them.
How do we fix the sky?
Kaya is playing in the McDonalds play area. She is joined by a five-year old girl. They immediately take a liking to one another and run and slide and play together. At one point they disappear in a tunnel, sit together and talk. Which is when I first realize that this girl does not speak English. Amidst the two languages chattering away, there is a third language dominating. That of the giggle.
After striking up a conversation with the girl’s family, I learn they are from Germany. We speak in halted, sometimes awkward English while the girls carry on their own fluid, multilingual chatter. Soon they are holding hands. Then sliding down the tunnel together, shooting out the bottom, intermingled, all limbs and giggles and the universal ‘Weeee!!’
You may be wondering what this has to do with Haiti.
And I just wonder how it can not. This is humanity as it should be. This is why we must help as much as we can.
Our kids, all kids, are our stars, moons, suns and constellations. We need only be navigated by them to lift back up the Haitian sky.