Last Saturday I met a woman at work. She walked into the office, hair wrapped, glasses sitting on the tip of her nose. She asked me if she could speak to my boss. Her voice sounded weak. Not weak as in sleep-deprived, but weak as in “Lord, do I have problems to tell.”
I told her that my boss would be out for a bit, but that she would be back soon. She thanked me and walked back out into the hallway.
Later that day, as I finished off my last pile of paperwork, she came back into the office. Luckily my boss had returned so she wouldn’t have to wait again. They started to talk.
Now, I can’t explain the full context of their conversation. But I can tell you this:
She is an immigrant from Haiti. Her relatives (a few siblings, nephews, and nieces) are all from Port-Au-Prince. Weeks after the quake in Haiti, they are left to live in the streets, amid the destitution that once was their hometown. The mission? To bring her family to America. The problem? Finding a way to do it.
I mean, I saw it. I saw the footage of victims screaming out towards collapsed roofs and broken windows. I saw the children, the orphans who, despite the absolute horror of it all, were still smiling. I saw the dead bodies, and I read the statistics. It convinced me that, yes, my money was better off in the hands of the Buddhist women at the buffet, and the cast members of “Mamma Mia!,” both of whom collected donations that same week.
But hearing this woman talk made me break out of my “Omg, Anderson Cooper really is a great journalist” mentality. She wasn’t just another news wire, sending in breaking stories from Haiti. She was a human being and this was her life.
I’m not saying I wasn’t aware of it’s reality. It’s the news. It’s facts. But sometimes, I just forget. I forget that the life I live will somehow always be connected to the orphan on the other side of the world. The one without a home or a warm meal.
Last Saturday at work, that woman reminded me that the people of Haiti were just as much “my people” as my relatives who’d suffered from the typhoons in the Philippines. She reminded me of something called “responsibility,” and why my passion is… what it is.