Haiti: Making Sense of Suffering in my So-Called Perfect World


Idelette’s note: I wrote this piece in the week following the earthquake in Haiti. It seems appropriate to post it as part of my reflection on Lent and Suffering.

Haiti: Making Sense of Suffering in a So-called Perfect World

I made banana bread with my 4-year-old this afternoon, while the two-year-old napped. We stood at the island in the kitchen together, creaming the butter and mixing in the sugar. I broke two eggs into the softness.

But there’s a newsfeed running through me: Two million people in Haiti homeless.

When I wake up in the morning, Haiti is there, the first word I think of. Since the tragedy struck, Haiti has become the facebook newsfeed into my life. I move around it and through it.

Friend requested accepted accepted accepted.

The newsfeed runs through me as I move the spatula, silicon against glass.

Increased risk of women and children being trafficked out of Haiti. UNICEF adviser says 15 disappearances have been documented since the tragedy. Children disappearing from hospitals.

Mix. Mix. Mix.

I take out three frozen bananas from the freezer. Defrost them. Telah asks if she could mush them. I remember being surprised that she would want to do that. Frozen bananas are kind of gross. But then, I’d forgotten she’s a four-year-old and mushing anything is fun.

Allowing Suffering to Penetrate our Home

All the while making banana bread, I’m thinking about how this moment in the kitchen is what we dream about when we think about motherhood and staying home with our children. When we think about a perfect day and some domestic bliss, somehow we’re baking muffins or banana bread. So I think about the warmth and safety of home. While my heart is aching for women, men and children not too far from us—their semblance of normal shaken to the core, I am creating “home” with my daughter. I don’t know what else to do.

Together we are baking a home with a sense of love and beauty, simplicity, abundance, the smell of banana bread and a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

After picking up the 6-year-old from school, the kids can hardly wait and eagerly climb up on their chairs to the island for a slice of fresh chocolate chip banana heaven. It’s too hot, but we can’t wait, because we have to take our dog to the vet before 4pm. It doesn’t matter. When something tastes this good …

We bundle into the car to take Emma, our Sheltie, to the vet, because her doggy skin is covered in a thick crust.

So we drive and Haiti drives with us: up 60th Ave, down 140th and left on Hyland Drive.

Kids, dog and a minivan. And Haiti.

The images I saw on the front page of the Globe and Mail sit next to me in the passenger seat.

Wearing it, Tasting it

I’m wearing a “Heart for Africa” necklace today, but I’m also wearing a collage of images links words thoughts shudders prayers tweets and status updates from the past few days on my head and in my heart. Trying to make sense of our world. Trying to make sense of my place in this world. Weighing and filtering. Mixing and stirring. I see my spirit spatula moving against my glass bowl world, trying to make sense of this mashedupness in me and around me. Mixing it all together, rhythmically, methodically.

Haiti sits on my shoulder at the vet’s office. Here we are, my seemingly picture perfect family, going through this very ordinary-extraordinary day, but in a whole new context. The earth has moved.

Haiti is no longer on a map somewhere as a bordering country of the Dominican Republic. Haiti now lives in me on me around me. Her suffering has moved into the phone call I make to a school, trying to plan where my four-year-old will be going to Kindergarten next year. Haiti orders a tall latte at Starbucks as I go through the drive-thru. Haiti walks to school with us. I push Haiti in the stroller when my two-year-old prefers to run. Haiti lives in a clear sandwich bag with crisp bills from the girls’ Christmas money: their offering to take to school, for Haiti.

And tonight, cuddling up to two soft little girl bodies in a pink pretty bedroom, I pray. I pray for their futures, I say thank you for our day. And Gabrielle prays for the people in Haiti.

And a Haitian mom prays with us:God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way … (via @100prayingwomen)

A New Reality

We take in the Anderson Cooper Sanjay Gupta 360 degree hell of a Caribbean nation and it mixes into the blood and bones of our day and when we breathe out, it’s all mushed together. Haiti and Canada. Haiti and America. Haiti. South Africa. England. Burundi. Israel. Haiti. Thailand. Winter Olympics. Human trafficking. Gabrielle’s dentist appointment on Friday. A funeral for someone from church. Haiti. A friend’s daughter’s birthday. Updates. Flyers in the mail. Haiti. Call the vet at 9pm to see if we can pick Emma up tonight. Kids finally in bed. Haiti.

Like [Haiti] a thick slice [Haiti] of [Haiti] banana bread [Haiti].

This is how I want to live: Not just with Haiti woven into the fabric of my being and of our home, but with every hurting hellhole place and every suffering child, every broken woman, every story of hurt and injustice on our planet woven right into the beautiful, grateful, sunny, comfortable, seemingly perfect days of my life.

Lest we forget.

Question: How have you made the reality of suffering on the earth part of your life?

  • http://twitter.com/gurjeetkaur Gurjeet Kaur

    Wow. Some thoughtful ideas, Idelette. Great blog, I think I’ll be spending some time flipping through its pages.