So I hear it’s Lent. I don’t mean that rudely, I just mean that everywhere I turn someone is talking about what they have “given up” for Lent. I myself have never participated in the ‘giving up’ and I fully attribute that to my stubbornness (just ask my husband, Karl). I haven’t denied myself chocolate, caffeine, Facebook, etc. and I don’t think people around me would appreciate it much if I did. However, I can’t help but feel guilty when everyone else seems so committed to this task. So I decided that I was going to give up doing…
In September 2013, after spending a week in the hottest, most humid conditions I have ever experienced, I was luxuriously facing the amped-up air conditioners in the Cap-Haitien, Haiti airport. I was soaking up the frigid, dry air when the call came from the immigration officials that we were to make a line and get our passports stamped. Growling under my breath, because this means I have to walk away from these blessed air conditioning units and secondly I have to wait in another line. As I am waiting, I rudely eavesdrop on the two women behind me in line. They are both so invigorated and excited about their week in Haiti. “I must have vaccinated over 100 babies this week!” My thoughts are, “woohoo, (eye roll) good for you.” I walk up; have my passport stamped and skulk over to my seat next to my partner Bill. “That lady immunized over 100 babies and feel I didn’t DO any anesthesia this week. I did nothing” I whined. Bill raised his eyebrows and gave me ‘the look’ which means, “grow up.” He said, “Don’t diminish their work or our own.” I continued to sulk in silence because he refused to commiserate in my grumpiness. But as I sat there I remembered a beautiful moment of that week, one of many, but this one reminded me about why I was in Haiti and why I had given up doing.
Rosie-Marie is one of the nurse anesthesia students. She is bright, hard working, and has a gorgeous smile. We were working together; meaning she was doing anesthesia on a six-year-old boy, and I was her mentor. I watched her interact with this boy, I watched her skills in doing the anesthetic, and I made small suggestions and gave her affirmation when she was a bit unsure. I did nothing. After a successful procedure and anesthetic, we rolled this boy to the wards where his parents were waiting. His father saw me and began saying, “Mesi (thank you), mesi anpil (thank you very much)” to me. He was so grateful for me but I hadn’t done anything. This was Rose-Marie’s success not my own. I shyly said, “Pa mwen (not me),” and then pointed to Rose-Marie and said her name. I wanted to empower her, not only for her, but also for her fellow countryman. To show him how lucky he is to have such a capable provider living in his neighborhood. Giving both her and him peace of mind that his child is safe under her watchful, trained eye. That is the whole point of our foundation, Citizens of the World. It is to provide education so anesthesia providers feel empowered by their abilities to take care of their fellow Haitians. It sometimes is just so much easier to do something oneself but I am not Haitian, I do not live in Haiti. I cannot be there to DO everyday. But Rose-Marie and her classmates are and will be and upon graduation they will be dispersed throughout Haiti. They will be the future teachers and then they will have to give up doing.
Let’s be honest, I still haven’t given anything up for Lent. I am just going to cheat and say I was just too early for Lent this year but I think I am going to continue to give up doing. I warned you that I was stubborn.