Later, I wished I hadn’t seen it.
Dan and I were off for a vacation by ourselves, the first one we had taken after our children had been born. Being history buffs, we planned to visit Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg, and Washington, D.C.
Our first night on the road we stayed at an unimpressive, old motel attached to a truck stop somewhere in Appalachia. Being novice travelers, we had failed to make a reservation.
The morning after we stayed in that old motel, we ate breakfast at the truck stop. At some point during our meal, the door opened and two women walked in. The younger of the two women carried a baby. They sat in a booth near ours.
Everything about this threesome shouted poor. The women were shabbily dressed, their hair was unkempt, and the blanket around the baby was soiled. As Dan and I were about to finish and leave, I glanced at the booth where they sat.
To my surprise, I saw the older woman, possibly the grandmother, open an empty baby bottle and pour into it the remnant of the coffee in her cup. She screwed on a lid and they prepared to depart.
What? I wondered. Would that cold coffee later in the day be fed to the baby because there was nothing else to feed him? My thoughts flew back to our own children, well fed and well tended at home with their grandmother.
Dan and I left the restaurant and soon were gliding along on our way toward Gettysburg. But the image of that old woman pouring coffee into that baby bottle stayed with me. It is with me even now.
I was more timid in those days than I am today, more fearful of a rebuff. Today, at the very least, I would have ordered milk from the waitress, paid for it, and had it taken to their table for the baby.
Why didn’t I do something?
My sister Joni makes frequent mission trips to Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. She encounters wretched poverty in all of those places, but none of the others compare to Haiti.
Living conditions in Haiti were barely survivable before the massive earthquake that hit the country on January 12, 2010. The millions of people who live there today manage to stay alive despite having almost no shelter, no food, no clean water, no medical care, no education, and no organized political system.
I asked Joni, as soft-hearted and compassionate a person as anyone you will ever meet, to tell me a bit about her visits to Haiti.
She said, “Haiti is a very dangerous country to visit. For safety, I stay with the other members of my group, and we are very selective in the places we choose to visit.”
Joni says her ministrations there are the equivalent of treating a severed limb with a Band-Aid. But at least one person is blessed when a caring woman, motivated by the love of Jesus, gently does what she can do to help.
She also said, “That country’s need is so great, it is overwhelming when viewed as a whole. I simply help the person God puts in front of me.”
I believe Joni’s philosophy of “helping the person God puts in front of me” should be the standard for all of us. That may mean assisting a neighbor whose house has been flooded, buying a winter coat for an old man who needs one, or tending to a child whose parents are lost in a world of drugs and alcohol.
It may be as simple as buying milk for a baby who needs it.
Joni works with Hope for Haiti’s Children. This photo of Joni with a little boy cared for by HFHC was taken in 2009 before the earthquake in 2010. When this picture was taken, the child lived with his family on the roof of a church. During the quake, the church crumbled into the street, killing many people, including a group of nurses who were studying there. Joni couldn’t bear to ask if the little boy survived the quake.