Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Friendship and theft

Poor Haitians are not bad people. They are simply poor. They are needy, and years of hunger, counterproductive NGO efforts, and destructive patterns have taught some of them that if they do not lie or steal, they will not survive. The general belief is that blan yo, the white people, have seemingly endless amounts of funds. I imagine that some justify their actions by saying “Surely, if my problem is big enough, it wouldn’t be wrong to take some of the foreigners’ money. They can simply call America and get more.” Thus time and time again, I have seen money disappear. I’ve had toys, clothes, and jewelry stolen from my home. I’ve had staff members turn in receipts that appear altered. Sometimes I know clearly who the culprit is; sometimes, I simply know that something is missing.

Theft is primarily a loss of material goods, most of them replaceable. But the secondary and far worse effect of this frequent dishonesty is the nagging fear in the back of my mind that no Haitian is trustworthy. I have not found it easy to be true friends with poor Haitians, so the few friends I do have are very special to me. And I despise the fact that whenever I think about these friends, there is always the shadow of doubt: “How long will it be before this one breaks my trust?” I don’t have proof, but I have many reasons to believe that two of my good friends in Port-au-Prince were stealing from me the entire time that we worked together. And here in Gonaives, a friend who I have trusted more than any other Haitian, recently admitted to stealing from us.

It is a terrible fear - that the ones we trust, the ones who have been with us during the greatest and worst moments of our lives here – that they will betray us. I try to ignore it but always, always that fear is there. It weighs on me and it makes me hold myself back in these friendships. I truly believe that those who have stolen from me still care about me, and that to them, the act of thievery did not diminish their affection for me or their loyalty to me. But something in me changes when that trust is broken, and a person who steals from me, especially those who lie about it, cannot stay in the same category of true friends.

Last week, my friend Christine visited me with her 5 children. Her teenage daughter cut her leg getting out of the taptap so I took care of it, and left the bag of Band-Aids on the table. I didn’t see what happened later; all I knew was that the teenage girl came back to the living room after a trip to the bathroom and Christine said sharply, “Put those back right now. They are not yours.” And the girl placed 2 Band-Aids back on the table.

Sometimes I am haunted by the fear that my friends will steal. Other times, there’s Christine. She reminds me that I can and should trust my Haitian friends. And my hope in humanity is restored.


Mama-Beth said...

I love Christine.

Scott said...

When people live in a way that their ethical and moral code is skewed 24/7, it's hard to understand that they might not know what they are doing is wrong. That's why we must continue the love of Christ through the hard times and show them there is a better way.

Natasha Rae Jovin: lovex3 said...

this is so good Kez! I don't know why I don't read your blog on the regular?! I always love what you write and it always seems to express things that I have thought or felt before... if not that then it challenges me and encourages me! I love who you are and what you are doing there. One day maybe we will see more of each other in that beautiful land of Ayiti! I MISS IT!

ps- Skype me into your kryeol classes...I need it and having a haitian husband doesn't do the trick to becoming fluent ;)