Saturday, December 10, 2005

Painful Limits:

Frandy and John are reading at one of the tables in our open air dining room. John is studying his notes, and Frandy is reading a book on basketball stars and an English/Creole dictionary. He has tap tapped it here from his home at the top of a mountain in Carrefour, a seaside suburban slum. Frandy is a 17-year-old, tall, handsome, driven young man whom Haitian Hearts brought to St. Louis last year for a cardiac workup. As it turned out, Frandy didn’t need heart surgery. But he and his mother had a nice two month stay with Jim and Jane Ebel in St. Louis. The Ebels are also paying for Frandy’s school this year. He attends Grand College du Bicentenaire d’Haiti, where he studies French, English, history, Spanish, and physics among other subjects. Frandy is one of the more motivated young Haitians we’ve seen. He has largely taught himself English; each time we see him, his proficiency has improved. Frandy wants to be a diplomat.

One of the realities of our trips to Haiti is that we have lots of people stopping by to see us. I joke with John that for a guy who never wanted to be tied down working in a medical practice in Peoria, he has one in Haiti. So far this trip, Jackson, Heureuse, Samuel, Katina’s father, Katia, and Faustina and her mother have come by. They are either Haitian Hearts patients or their relatives. For those who need it, John does an exam and gives them medicine. Many times they will ask for other things: money, food, a visa. Sometimes we give them a little money, and sometimes not.

I find it excruciating to say no to these additional requests. “If this was my first trip here, I’d be trying to give them everything they asked for,” said John. What you learn is that the requests never stop, though our ability to meet them would. We have to set limits.

Frandy hasn’t asked for anything. Well, I guess he kind of asked for a tape to go along with the ESL books I gave him earlier in the year—I will pick up one of these for him; we like to support educational efforts. And he’s dropped obvious hints that he has no money—his mother didn’t accompany him to see us because they don’t have the tap tap fare for her. While this could be true, tap tap fare is only five gourdes (about 15 cents) a ride. If they truly couldn’t afford the fare for Frandy’s mother, he probably shouldn’t have come also, though they probably look at it like an investment. The last time they visited us, we agreed to pay for school.

What’s certain, though, is that Frandy and his family don’t have much money. As I look over at him reading, wearing a orange and black University of Missouri t-shirt and blue jeans, he looks as thin and angular as a coat hanger, and his hair isn’t as dark as it should be. This is a country full of people like him.

We give him $20. It isn’t much, but Frandy and his family will be able to buy food for at least a week. “They’ll have chicken tomorrow,” said John. And my conscience will be a little assuaged as we eat our evening meal.

2 comments:

Dejean said...

Maria Carroll,Thanks for posting those lines.They are very intereting.God bles you and also HAITIAN HEARTS MISSION.

Dejean said...

Thank you very much: James and Jane Ebel, John and Maria Carroll .
God bless you