Beggars

Occasionally, something occurs to me that overlaps the subject areas for the blogs I write.  It’s rare that something would touch all three – MV, Haiti, and this catch-all.  It’s quite common, however, for this blog to touch on something that is appropriate to post on either the Servants for Haiti site for which I am webmaster or the MV blog for which I am a (literal) guest contributor.

This post falls into the former category – Haiti and personal musings – so I will double-dip and post versions here and there.  It’s unfortunate, but I won’t apologize for conserving my energy at this point.

I am a beggar.

I constantly beg people to give of their time, money, or other resources.  While I might do it for MS on occasion, it’s a regular part of my life when it comes to Haiti.

This whole idea was driven home to me yesterday as I went from place to place, seeking donations for door prizes to be offered at an upcoming fundraiser.  Virtual hat in hand, I begged for small trinkets to offer the attendees of the “Scrolled” Staged Reading event to be held on 6/15.  Besides door prizes, I’m begging for volunteers to perform, greet attendees, assist with A/V needs, and prepare and serve snacks.  And of course, people are sick to death of me sending them coercive “invitations” to attend the reading.

As Trivia time approaches each year, the cycle continues.  I scour the area for businesses to donate items to be offered as part of the silent auction.  I beg people to help with the planning and execution of the actual event.  I beg everyone for advertising exposure.  Finally, I am transformed into an annoying spammer as I beg people to attend.

Others in SFH perform the same routine.  A significant portion of a volunteer’s time is spent begging people to pledge money to help Haiti, or to fulfill previous pledges.

We all agree it’s a Good Cause, but frankly it gets tired very quickly.  Regardless of the cause, begging is a humiliating and demeaning business.  Groveling doesn’t come naturally to me, nor to any human being, I suppose.

Yet that is the occupation of a significant percentage of the Haitian population.  You can’t visit Haiti for more than a minute (that’s not hyperbole) without being confronted by someone who wants something from you.  Sometimes, a child will approach and demand, “Give me my dollar.” If you look as if you have any need at all, from carrying luggage to being lost to having a stalled vehicle, a crowd of young men is likely to gather, offer advice and assistance, then expect payment, even if they were of no service whatsoever.

(The most painful example of begging that I’ve encountered in Haiti was when a woman sitting in the street held out her tiny baby to me, making an earnest but incomprehensible appeal in Creole.  A translator told me that she was asking me to take her child so it would have a better life wherever I had come from.)

It’s a way of life for visitors to Haiti.  It gets exhausting and frustrating saying, “non, mesi” to person after person after person, day after day after day.

How frustrating must it be for them?

On one trip, I recall a team member bemoaning the constant pleading we had to put up with.  He had a point, but what else can they do?  There are precious few opportunities for earning money in Haiti.  Many must either beg or watch their families waste away.

What would you do?

We could chastise them for not doing things the American Way, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and creating opportunities for themselves. The problem is that the American Way has America behind it.  Free universal education.  Relatively easy access to healthcare.  A strong infrastructure.  An abundance of natural resources.  Available jobs and seed money.  A culture of independence and self-reliance.  A legacy of freedom.

None of that is true of Haiti.  Worse, the American Way has conditioned them to beg.  We are quick and generous to send them our stuff and money, but the US and other wealthy nations are the ones who have plundered their natural resources, undercut their economy, and interfered with their national sovereignty.

Someday maybe they won’t have to beg.  That’s why the mission of Servants for Haiti is to create opportunities.  For those who think that Haitians are sitting around expecting handouts and won’t do whatever it takes to change their circumstances, you couldn’t be more wrong.  The waiting list for the SFH Biznis Pam program puts the lie to the idea that Haiti is a nation of panhandlers waiting for the next free pass.  They are hard-working, resilient, proud people who care for their families and country.

How is that different from you?

In their position, I’d beg, too.  But I don’t have to.  So I beg for them.  Maybe that should be our slogan:

We beg so they don’t have to.

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About rickconti

It's not about me, remember?
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