0210 Rue de miracles
Written from the novitiate house at 3AM on Thursday morning.
I set out to reach here, 24 hours ago. It is miraculous that I have arrived, and I do not use the term lightly. It is also a testament to the inspired teamwork of SO many people! The experience also makes me hopeful, and humbles me. Nothing "I" am doing is being done by me alone -- and that gives me great comfort.
For starters, just getting me to the airport needs to be credited to my lovely bride. When the snow started falling, and she saw that I was torn between staying with her, and going forward, she said, "Get out of here; go do what you need to do." And, thereafter, buoyed up by Zak (working alternate flights), Graeme (ditto), Cammie (suggesting I try the Richmond airport), Cheryl (covering my shift), Jeremy (authorizing the swap), Cammie giving me en-route flight updates as I slushed down 95 towards Richmond), my dad (floating me the cash I needed to fund the whole massive mutating operation), and, oh yeah, Cammie (backing me up and staying positive as I traveled), I made it to Richmond.
Similarly, being able to get my bags aboard is directly attributable to a JetBlue customer service rep named Becky. The details are listed elsewhere, but the bottom line is that she CHOSE to help me -- and in that choice, she was backed up by her entire chain of command, including her manager, the JetBlue administration, and the airline policies that empowered Becky to act on her desire to help out. (Go JetBlue!)
Just getting off the ground in Richmond was another masterpiece of teamwork. The runway, plane, and sky were socked with snow. The pilot assessed the situation and decided that he could still direct his team of personnel to get the plane to its destination despite the obstacles. He explained the process to the passengers, got the de-icing crew into position, sent plow teams to clear the runway, had the plane de-iced before the tarmac re-iced, and piloted his aircraft up to where the sun was already shining. Frankly, when that cylinder of aluminum and avionics and applied physics and materials science broke through the clouds, and I felt sunlight on my face for the first time in days, *I* felt as though I had succeeded at something magnificent -- even though all I had done was kept faith in the pilot and kept out of the way so he could demonstrate good planning, good training, and good reflexes. Somebody needs to buy that man a cold (root) beer.
If getting TO Santo Domingo was a masterpiece of "intentional" teamwork, then getting into Port-au-Prince FROM Santo Domingo was "unintentional" teamwork so ridiculously perfect that it proved (like the platypus) that the Lord is both a master planner and a master of improvisational comedy. Arriving alone in the DR with only a rental-car reservation and a big wad of resources, I was acutely aware of my need for SAFETY IN NUMBERS. As I scanned the crowd, a gentleman named Kirk struck up a conversation with me. He was an Emergency Medicine physician from Seattle, and he and four others were trying to get to Haiti. Could I give them any suggestions? So, we crammed six people and a WHOLE lot of supplies into a five-passenger toaster-shaped minivan, and set off overland with only a vague idea of how to even get out of the airport. The team had every skill imaginable, and each surfaced at exactly the right time. Kirk (the doc) spoke Spanish -- very useful in Santo Domingo. Steeve (a professional ballroom dancer) had a Dominican girlfriend -- thus he had Dominican pesos -- very useful if you want to, say, pay a toll, or stop for a bite at a Burger King and order your customary number 3 combo. The team proved to be ever more resourceful and improbable -- to the point where we were chatting about families, and I said (jokingly) to one of the EMTs" seven kids? What are you, a Mormon?" -- and he said "Yes!" -- and ANOTHER guy said "Hey, so am I!" (Anybody want to do the math on the odds of an impromptu six-man medical team, assembling in the DR from DC, Florida, and Seattle, including three MORMONS?!?) Nor should I really be SURPRISED that our trusty iPhones NAVIGATED US WITHOUT A HITCH FROM SANTO DOMINGO TO THE BORDER, over terrain only I had traveled before (while asleep on a pile of luggage), in the middle of the night, OVER FASTER ROADS THAN WE HAD TRAVELLED WITH NATIVE GUIDES ON OUR PREVIOUS TRIP. Now of course the border was closed (it being past midnight... So Kirk explained (in flawless Spanish) for the DR border guards what we were doing, and Steeve did the same (in native Creole) for the Haitian PNH border guards, and they OPENED THE CLOSED BORDER and waved us through... At which point a passing two-vehicle convoy of Haitian businessmen, upon learning that we were going to a specific place to link up with the 82nd Airborne, LED US THERE, all the way from the border. Anybody want to calculate the odds of ANY of this happening, let alone ALL of it happening, all at once?...
So after delivering the doctor, paramedics, and ballroom instructor to their appointed linkup with the Soldiers of the 82nd, I thoughtfully drove back to the novitiate through the sleeping city (guided by my iPhone). The city felt like a ghost town as I drove, but as I look back on it now, I think it would be more accurate to characterize it as a city that is WAITING. For what?
Well, when we were stopped for dinner, Steeve made an excellent point. He said, "If the world acted this way all the time -- the way you guys are doing, coming here to help out -- if we did this all the time, think what kind of a world we would live in!" Later on he mused, "There was so much that has been wrong for so long. I don't say I wanted this earthquake. But maybe all of this, you know, maybe it will be a door, for something better in Haiti."
A learned scriptorian could probably find many passages that discuss the role played by the Holy Spirit in forming and guiding teams of men and women who open themselves up to be led by that Spirit, and thereby make the world better, brighter, kinder, and simply more entertaining. With the Lord's help, I know that we can climb above the snow and the cold and the broken cement, to where the sun shines warm on our faces. I know that there is a Guide more reliable even than the blinking blue dot on a cellphone, that can lead us to link up with brothers and sisters whom we've never met before, and work together towards a world we only occasionally realize that we are missing. As I reviewed very intensely, when the rain began to pour down as we approached Port-au-Prince, many things will still and always be OUTSIDE our control. But we can pray fervently for the Lord's intervention on our behalf, and on the behalf of our brothers and sisters in need; and then, we can get up, and act on the promptings we receive. Maybe the rain will stop (as it did tonight, suddenly as a spigot being turned off); maybe it won't. But we can do our best to make shelter from the rain, for each other.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Mark Hayward, a former Army Special Forces medic, returned to Haiti today to provide follow-on medical care to the patients he cared for over two weeks ago. While this is neither an official Team Rubicon mission, nor funded by Team Rubicon, Hayward returned to Port-au-Prince through his own fund-raising effort. "Mark's personal mission wasn't complete without ensuring his patients received follow-on wound care to prevent gangrene and sepsis. I've seen doctors come to Mark for medical advice. When Team Rubicon deploys to the next disaster, this is the guy you immediately call upon, if he hasn't already beat you to the punch by volunteering first." says Team Rubicon co-founder William McNulty. His most recent update is below:
at 6:14 AM