17 April 2011

White Kites

Thursday was a rough day.

I was in a hurry, getting ready to go down to the hangar with the carpool. In the midst of my gathering and checking and finding, David calls to me, "Gracie seems awfully excited about something this morning." That should have been a red flag. But it wasn't. I charged out into the gallery to let her out, only to find a large, dead rat at my feet. After some gagging and a few words like "yuck" and "blech" and "nasty," I commenced with clean-up and praised Grace. The praise was two-fold: 1) Thank you for not eating the rat. 2) Thank you for not letting the rat come into our house through the rather large gap under the front door. Good dog. With that behind us, I hurried out to meet the carpool.

But it got rougher.

I had a hard enough time shaking the image of the rat's glassy eyes, in their permanent stare. It was hard enough to forget its dead weight at the end of my cardboard shovel and see the bite marks of my dog on its head. But while cruising down Delmas, we saw something that stopped us in our tracks.

There was a woman lying in the road.

She was facing away from me, lying in the middle of this busy street, her hands bound behind her back. I'll just say what you're thinking: I was sure she was dead. I didn't want to look, but everyone else was staring. People were stopped on the edge of the road, arms crossed, staring. Just watching to see what would happen.

It was unbearable.

And then, as traffic began to move again, I saw her open her eyes. "She's not dead!" I gasped. "She's alive!" She had kicked off her shoes and was just lying there, her neatly-braided hair still pressed against the asphalt, trying to get her bearings. We stopped to notify a police officer who was directing traffic a few blocks down. "Someone probably just wanted to rob her," said G. But that wasn't the first thing that came to my mind. Actually, a lot of worse things came to my mind. Because a lot of those "worse things" happen to women every day here. Her image was hard to shake. Impossible, actually. I spent the rest of the day distracted by my prayers for her.

And it begged the question: "How do we balance joy and grief, especially when grief threatens to overwhelm us?"

It's kite season here in Port-au-Prince. In the last few weeks, small Haitian boys everywhere have suddenly come up with these long-stringed kites which they fly anywhere. As the warm afternoon air currents rise, they are a perfect foil to cheap plastic diversions such as these. And from my window, I can often see five at a time, just swooping and riding the breeze over the concrete rooftops.

There's a lot to love here, but there's a lot to grieve, too, and we need to have the wisdom to do both. May we not turn our eyes away from people in need. May we not ignore white kites in an afternoon sky.
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