Usually, when I go home to the States, I find myself getting irritated at people. It's a displaced irritation. I'm not actually upset at the people themselves, but instead at the discrepancies between how we live in the U.S. and how the Haitians live here. For instance, the time when I watched a woman hemorrhage in my car for seven hours after giving birth, while I tried to find her help at four different hospitals. Then I went home to watch my friend have her baby in a luxury birthing suite with monitors and epidural anesthesia and round the clock nursing care, and I found myself getting irritated. It wasn't my friend's fault that her birthing experience was a good one. It was just the huge difference in available medical options between one place and another that was bothering me. Or the year when we went home and wanted a 'simple Christmas' but ended up receiving eighty five hundred gifts for the kids. I couldn't help feeling irritated, knowing that my Haitian friends were celebrating Christmas by going to church and eating a meal together that might include meat as a special treat. It wasn't my family's fault for wanting to rain down gifts on the children they see only twice a year. It was just the great gulf between excess and want that frustrated me.
A few weeks ago, I found myself suffering from this displaced irritation once again. And this time, I wasn't in the States. It happened right here in my home. A couple of the boys from the Jacmel boys' home came to visit me and talk about the food situation in the house. Apparently, the money for their monthly food allowance is not sufficient, and they have been without food for a couple weeks. They were hungry and frustrated, so they came to visit me and talk it over. When they arrived, I asked them how their families were. Usually, a Haitian will reply "doing well" or "fine, thank the Lord" or something of that nature. But these boys replied "ou konnen mis, sa'k mouri, mouri". That means "you know, those that have died are dead." Jean Robert lost a teenage cousin to cholera two weeks ago, and has another relative in the hospital recovering from cholera. Elira lost a sister with obstetrical complications a few months ago. So, the boys were suffering loss, and they were hungry. We talked for awhile, trying to resolve the food issue, then I sent them on their way with a little something for the road. As they were leaving, my daughter started to scream. I had served her lunch right before the boys arrived. I gave her a fork to eat her macaroni and cheese with. She was screaming because she wanted a spoon. She refused to eat the food with a fork. I got irritated and said to her, "We just had starving people in our house and you are crying about a fork?" I'm sure my four year old daughter didn't understand what I was referring to or care in the least, and I shouldn't have expected her to. She's just a little girl who prefers spoons to forks. I wasn't really irritated with her. I was irritated, and a little ashamed, at the discrepancy between how we live and how those around us do.