2010-03-22 To Do List – Save a Child

A friend read one of my recent blog posts and suggested I continue writing on a similar theme. The theme of the first post was the creation of my to-do list for the day, and comparing that with the list of someone else, chosen randomly from my subconscious for their to do items impact on my psyche. So today, I begin again.

To do list for yesterday. Yesterday was Sunday, and yet it began at 2 .am. Our Saturday evening with our friends Jenny and Dan turned into Sunday morning, which happens quite often when Jenny is involved. The night also included a late round of euchre in which Jenny and I were partners, with my husband Mark and Dan as our opponents. We “possummed” them in the first round (this is akin to “skunking” but includes total anniliation). They in turn, skunked us (only “skunking” because we scored). We concluded with one last tiebreaker, though by now, my focus was on faces of the two dogs who desperately wanted to sleep, but could not bring themselves to do so, in the face of an opportunity to lap up whatever we might spill in the wee hours. Of course, pretzel crumbs and wine were not quite up to par for their tastes, as might be steak and eggs, but they persevered and their sad looks caused me to lose focus, and lose the final round.

Sunday began with an unusual waking by the Abby, a very large golden doodle we were dog-sitting for my in-laws. Our puppy Enzo sleeps in a crate, outside of our room, because I am a light sleeper and this was one concession that I won. Abby was still new to our household, and we wanted her contained so we knew her whereabouts. She slept in our room, until about 7 a.m. (which translates to 5 hours of restless, wine-induced tossing and turning).

From there the day’s race was on, including baking a French toast casserole with blueberries before our hungry bunch would rise and decimate the cereal aisle in our pantry instead.

Our breakfast conversation turned to the topic of Haiti. A local reporter had returned from that country and written a articles that kept my Mark entranced. Mark was heading to Haiti next month. When had he first told me about the opportunity that existed for doctors through his Notre Dame alumni connection, I simply said, “You have to go.” I never looked at our schedule, nor did I consider being widowed (again) if events turned sour in Haiti while he was there. He simply “had to go”.

Then, Mark received a lengthy e-mail with explanations about where he would stay, how he and his companions would travel and what vaccinations would be necessary prior to departure. Also discussed were malaria and other diseases for which there were no vaccinations. Swine flu wasn’t scary when one compared that to traveling in mosquito-infested countries with rains that wash away potential sprouts of corn or wheat.

I was still hungover, tired, dehydrated, and could take in neither what Mark Carnette had experienced and cataloged, nor could I absorb all that Mark would witness in the upcoming month.

I left the article about Haiti on the kitchen table, showered, attended a Mother-Daughter fashion show and drove out to Frontgate Outlet Store to purchase an outdoor lantern that matched one I purchased yesterday, when I was not convinced I needed two. But, the lanterns had been on sale, I reasoned. I even negotiated with the manager to include another set of pre-burnt pillar candles to match the ones paid for the day before.

We watched the XU basketball game in earnest, biting our nails until the very end. My daughter’s boyfriend thought the team had it in the bag when they went up by 6 or 7 with a few minutes left to go. But I needed to see things through to the conclusion. And sure enough, the game ended, but without our viewing (thanks Time Warner, CBS, NCAA, and Dick Vitale, or the obscure technician in the control booth). XU did secure the win. We all felt a sense of relief, until Thursday when they would play again.

During the game, we had seen snippets for the news magazine show 60 Minutes, which would follow the broadcast of the games. Mark, Shannon, Davis and I stayed glued to the couch when 60 Minutes began. Katie Couric interviewed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He too carried a hand-written to do list, beginning with 3 minutes with President Obama, and ending the day with what Rahm called their “wrap up”. The end of their day was significantly different than mine or the rest of us. But his to-do list was no less impressive, and he probably did not complete his list with a hangover.

Then, a segment about Haiti began playing, and we sank into silence. To be honest, the camera footage was the first I had seen, other than pictures in the newspapers. I am not one for denial, but for the past two months have battled my own demons and could not take on those of the world. Devastation did not begin to describe the scenes which were shown and the apt title the Lost Children of Haiti scared me. Scott Pelley traveled to Haiti for 6 weeks. He first spoke with Moise Vaval, pastor of a local church who also worked for an orphanage. His eight year old boy, Jean Marc, had gone missing in the earthquake. What began as a father’s quest to find his child became an incessant drive to locate and match missing children with their parents. His restlessness drove him to support others in need until his son’s backpack was unearthed ten weeks later, and his small boy body removed from the rubble beneath the school.

The reporter then profiled Jean Robert Cadet – a Restevec – a former child slave. My husband and I had met Jean Cadet at a local fundraiser. Following the earthquake, he had visited Davis’ school, which raised $17, 000 for Jean Cadet to build schools in Haiti. He is a Cincinnatian, who has created his own foundation to save the children of Haiti from the fate he experienced as a child. Child slavery in Haiti is not uncommon nor is it illegal, so Jean Cadet uses his weight as a teacher to encourage families to give up ownership of children that do not belong to them.

Scott Pelley asked him about slavery. “The earthquake created child slavery?” “No, it created the opportunity for more children in slavery,” says Jean Cadet. “But Jean Cadet, if there are 175,000 child slaves, how do you think going door to door can help save any of them?”

Jean Cadet looked almost incredulous, as if to say, if you knew my story, you wouldn’t ask. Of course the reporter knew his story, but Scott wanted to draw it out of him for others, back home, sitting on a green leather pit group in front of a large screen TV, still nursing a hangover and yelling about the dog barking and no one letting him out.

“Someone made a big difference in my life, someone believed in me.” When Jean Cadet’s owner-family came to the U.S., they threw him out onto the streets. A teacher of Jean Cadet’s spent months with him, got him in the welfare system and help improve his education. He went into the military, became a teacher and returns often to Haiti to pry children from the grasp of slavery.

I looked beside me, Shannon to my right, her connection to Haiti through her French club activities, and Davis to my right. Both were children who had lost parents to a physical disease and not a societal one. Somehow they were easier to save than the little children on TV. Scott Pelley held a young boy in his arms, and cuddled with him, in the same vein that I recall Davis snuggling with my mother, so much that she called Davis her “little snuggler.” She would undergo breast cancer surgery after she held that baby for the first time.

I thought about what Jean Cadet said, “Saving one is worth it.” And while he is right, he is also mistaken. Children save us – from becoming inhuman.

When my writing is complete today, the last item will include reading Mark Curnette’s newpaper article or the e-mail on the logistics of Mark’s trip. I had put off learning more, which is unlike me, because I didn’t want to face the danger Mark may be in. But there was a part of me, some human part that knew, while he was administering anesthesia to a young child who may need amputation or surgery, he is the only person that I would want in the room rescuing any child with compassion and his care – and some child would save him too.

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