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.