By Lauren R. Stanley
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti – I need more money.
Every single day that I live here in Haiti, that’s what I think: I need more money!
I must think that at least 10 times per day, sometimes more often than that: I absolutely, positively must have more money!
Yet even as I think this, even as I pray this – I really do need more money, Lord – I know that there’s not enough money out there. No matter how much money I have, it won’t be enough.
The money I want is not for me. It’s for the young mother living on the street with her three children, one of whom is an infant not more than six months old. I give her money every time I see her, and when I have fruit, I give her that as well.
I need money for the young men who struggle to sell art on the streets so they can go to school, or send their young children to school.
I need money to take care of the Haitians are sick and can’t afford medicine.
I need money for every single child here who is homeless, who doesn’t have enough to eat, who has no place to sleep.
I need money for the women who wash themselves in the street where the water line has broken, literally squatting down in the road, defying the crazy traffic, just to wipe their faces with “clean” water.
Everywhere I turn in Haiti, I see such desperate need. The poverty here is ubiquitous, the need overwhelming. So many Haitians come to the capital hoping to find a job, only to discover that there are no jobs here, either. They end up on the streets, sleeping in doorways, begging for food, washing in dirty pools of water.
And there simply is not enough money to take care of them. It wouldn’t matter how much money anyone gave me, I couldn’t do enough. I can’t rescue everyone here. The problems are bigger than me, they are bigger than my wallet, heck, they’re probably bigger than Bill Gates’ wallet.
Which leaves me in a dilemma on a daily basis.
How can I help? Who do I help? Do I choose the homeless mother with her infant and children? Or the children who seem to have no families? Or the young men and women on the streets who have befriended me?
How do I say “Yes” to some, and “No” to others? What do I do when I’ve given all the money I have to the first three people I see, and then come upon a fourth, a fifth, a sixth … who need my money just as much?
I give away a lot of my income, some months up to 50 percent of it. I make a point of carrying small change to distribute as I walk to and from work, to and from the store (where I spend money on myself, and then feel guilty for having done so). Sometimes, I pay for schooling; sometimes for medication; sometimes for food; sometimes for water. I try to help as much as I can.
And yet, every single day, multiple times every single day, I hear myself say, I find myself praying, “I need more money, Lord!”
There are economists and sociologists who argue that giving money to the poor to take care of their immediate needs will not solve their problems. I believe them. I know that to be true in a macro-economic sense.
But what I know intellectually doesn’t do anything for me – or for the poor – when I am confronted by them daily. Children with reddish hair and bulging stomachs that attest to their malnutrition can’t afford to wait for some grand new plan that will train them at some point when they are older. Mothers with sick children cannot wait for a hospital to be built 10 years from now. Widows lying in the street, praying for any kind of help at all, cannot wait for a future they may not live to see.
They need help now. They need to eat now. They need clean water now. They need medicine now.
So I pray as best I can. I work as hard as I can. I give as much as I can. And I try to believe that my prayers, my work, my help makes a difference.
And then I think:
Lord, are you listening? I really, really, REALLY need more money! Now!
The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Haiti, where she works on the Partnership Program and Development, and teaches at the Theological Seminary in Port au Prince. Her website is http://GoIntoTheWorld.net.