100126 Giving and Receiving
I'm sitting on the runway at the Miami airport, shivering. I look and smell as though I've been sweating in my clothes for three days (which I have). If I were somebody else on this plane, I'd sincerely hope I wasn't sitting next to me. I'm looking forward to getting home, to a hot shower, clean clothes, my family, and my own bed.
I jettisoned everything I could think of when I left the novitiate house. I gave my tent and sleeping pad to Brother Jim; he'll use them during Team Rubicon's continuing operations, and will give them to one of the displaced Haitians when he finally goes back up north to his school. I gave my folding shovel, Gerber multi-tool, and North American Rescue trauma leg-bag to the new Alpha team leader; they're very useful during daily triage, treatment, and transport ops, and he in turn will hand them off to his replacement or to one of the locals when he rotates home. My black Crocs, my 511 tactical khakis, in fact all my clothing, with the exception of my undergarments and what I'm wearing now, have already been donated to the community of displaced Haitians in the novitiate compound. I did set aside my MEP scrub top and polo shirt for Brother Jim. (I hope that for years to come there are sightings of the MEP logo all over the island of Hispaniola!) :-) The command element was glad to get my portable tool kit, brick of rechargeable batteries and charger, 700watt DC power inverter, surge protector, and 12VDC and 110VAC power splitters, all of which will go to good use keeping the new Team Rubicon administrative hub up and running. My two favorite pieces of luggage, my American Tourister carryon and the Kal Gav bag that I picked up at the Norwegian PX in Sarajevo, are now part of Alpha team's medical support package, along with every combat tourniquet, specialty field and wound dressing, and H&H kit, tool, and packet that were in my house when I was packing. I left a Littman Cardiology III stethoscope, which will hopefully be of some use to a Haitian doctor rebuilding his practice. I left the lightweight REI jacket that kept me warm every night at 3AM; an Army canteen, a Gerber belt knife, a Petzl headlamp, an LED flashlight, two camelbacks, my prized aircraft-aluminum spork, and everything else that I thought could have any use to the Team or our displaced Haitian family members. I brought down a thousand dollars in cash for the op fund, purchased inbound and outbound plane tickets to the tune of another $800, and ran up a cellphone bill that I'm afraid to check. So that's what I "gave up," in strictly material terms, to be a part of this mission.
And in exchange?
Well, I can either give the "right" answer, or my own answer.
The "right" answer, of course, is that I received an opportunity to be of service to my Haitian brothers and sisters. I can say this without any reservations because it is absolutely true. I have a completely changed perception of the Haitians, and I will never forget their strength, their patience, their courtesy, and their honorable behavior under unimaginably challenging circumstances. The "right" answer also makes reference to the fact that by going to Haiti, I was able to serve as a representative for a multitude of my North American brothers and sisters, who saw the suffering in Haiti and wanted to help. With the exception of the very short list of material resources that I donated myself, everything that passed through my hands was a gift from someone else to the people of Haiti, and it was my privilege to deliver those gifts. Frankly, the same can be said of everything I did there, and indeed, anything I do anywhere. Our Father in Heaven provides breath in my lungs, the earth beneath my feet and the sky above my head; whatever good thing I may make or give or do is ultimately a gift from Him, and I have the privilege of passing those gifts along as I see fit. If I wish, I can also choose to live selfishly, to hoard or squander the blessings I am given on a daily basis. My experience and my faith confirm for me that my life is most joyous when I freely share what our Father has so freely given into my hands, and I believe that this principle is true for every one of us.
And all of these things are true, and all of them are part of the "right" answer to the question of what I gained in Haiti. However, they are not "my" answer. My answer is simple: in Haiti, I found my brothers. Jim Boynton: a man who has dedicated his life to the service of our Father, and who serves with wisdom, intelligence, insight, and a great sense of humor. Jake Wood: a natural leader, a man of vision and integrity, the man I want leading my team no matter what the challenge is. David Griswell: an emergency physician who is the equal of any I have ever met, and a man of individual compassion even in the midst of the most far-reaching suffering. Eduardo Dolhun: a brilliant, guileless, and utterly monomaniacal advocate, of oral rehydration in particular, and of doing simple things well in general. Jeff Lang and Craig Parello: "ordinary" Americans, who had never even gone on vacation outside the US, but who volunteered to help mitigate a third-world disaster of biblical proportions, and who did so with presence of mind, ingenuity, and a calm unflappability. William McNulty: smart, well-educated, well-travelled, with plenty of very pressing reasons NOT to go to Haiti, who chose nonetheless to put his other activities on hold and devote his considerable talents to working behind the scenes, laying the administrative groundwork for the mission, and letting the world know what Team Rubicon was doing. Clay Hunt: a man who personifies loyalty and what it means to be a true friend. And Zak Beck: an entrepreneur and fellow soldier out of uniform, who chases his own lions. So in the end, although I went to Haiti for the "right" reasons, and from a sincere desire to render aid to others, what I found there was at least as much a gift for me as for anyone else. The "big picture" of Team Rubicon's work in Haiti deserves to be underscored by Saint Ignatius' prayer, which Brother Jim led us in as we set out and returned each day. But for me, the "little picture" is best summed up by a line from Shakespeare: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers."
Thus I simply close by saying "Thank you." Thank you, to my family and co-workers and employers, who made it possible for me to go to Haiti when I felt called to do so. Thank you, to everyone who provided resources so that I could deliver their gifts to people in need. Thank you, to my brothers and sisters in Haiti, who graciously accepted the best I had to offer, even when it was very limited. But most of all, thank you, to my fellow members of Team Rubicon, for allowing me the honor of serving with you; and thank You to our Heavenly Father, who blessed us with this meeting.