Two months ago Wisnal, my community health worker in the ravine, told me that he was getting married in December and couldn't afford a wedding dress for his bride. In Haiti, weddings are a big deal, a very big deal, and therefore, they are painfully expensive. Many couples stay engaged for years or live as common-law husband and wife because they can't pay for a proper wedding. When I heard Wisnal's news, I offered to look for a wedding dress when I visited the States in November.
I stopped at a Goodwill store and I found a dress I thought a Haitian bride might like: poofy, frilly, sequin-covered, complete with a small train. It was $100, about twice as much as I could spend. I stood at the cash register, waiting to negotiate with the manager when a woman overheard me explain that I needed a dress for a young woman in Haiti who couldn't afford one. Out of the blue, this stranger smiled at me and said, "Can I give you my wedding dress?"
I may have stared at her for a full 10 seconds before I could stutter an answer. Poofy, frilly dress forgotten, we followed this kind woman to her house where she brought out a beautiful, perfectly white, stylish wedding dress. And then she was gone, leaving me flabbergasted and very grateful.
The story gets a bit complicated after this - with only a few weeks before the wedding, the bride was nervous about making the necessary adjustments for the dress to fit her right, and perhaps she thought it wasn't frilly enough for a Haitian wedding, so days before the wedding, Wisnal told me that they'd found a different dress. I was very disappointed but reminded myself that my American tastes do not quite match those of my Haitian friends when it comes to wedding attire. On Saturday, the wedding day, bride and groom were radiantly happy and that's what counts.
But don't worry, my Good Samaritan dress played an important role too. After the bride, the next most elaborately dressed individual is the maid of honor, Emmanuella, one of the rescued orphan girls from the Gonaives flood. She appeared at the beginning of the processional looking simply spectacular in my storied dress. It fit her perfectly and she literally danced down the aisle. I'm sure she has never felt so beautiful!
Good Samaritan from Goodwill, if you're reading this, thank you very much!