The aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti is heart-rending. It is impossible to see the images of dust-covered survivors digging through the piles of rubble, trying to find loved ones in collapsed buildings, and not be deeply moved.
Yesterday I talked to Mom. We discussed the horror in Haiti and she told me an interesting story about my father and his friend and business associate, Eugene Graham — one that I had never heard before. They had a mutual friend who was a minister and who operated a mission in Haiti. The three of them had lunch one day, probably in the late ’60s or early ’70s, and the minister spoke at length about the terrible poverty and living conditions in Haiti. Dad and Mr. Graham were so touched by the minister’s description that they bought 100 beds, mattresses, blankets, and pillows and then personally delivered them to the mission. Their minister friend then took them on a tour of Haiti, and Dad apparently was very disturbed by the misery he saw. He vividly described his trip to Mom upon his return, and so far as I know he never spoke about it again. He certainly never mentioned it to me.
I’m proud that Dad made that effort to help people in need, but Mom’s story also brought home the fact that the problems in Haiti have been long-standing — although the devastation wrought by the earthquake obviously has made living conditions in Haiti immeasurably worse. For decades, Haiti has been bedeviled by political corruption, cruel dictators, a failed economy, gangs and a host of other miseries, and monetary aid from America and elsewhere hasn’t really materially changed the realities of life there. Maybe the earthquake will make people take notice of this impoverished land and figure out how to resolve the underlying problems of that country so that meaningful change is accomplished. In the meantime, I hope that somewhere in Haiti the beds that Dad and Mr. Graham bought and delivered so many years ago are still in use, allowing some of the earthquake survivors to be more comfortable in their time of great need.