Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti 2010, The Dolls, Toothpaste, a Little Girl, and the BBC

Note that the Angels and the Devils are in the details. I think the detail of reports coming out of the rubble of the Haiti Earthquake that burned like lightening through my heart, was that of the toothpaste. Even the dolls could not compete, doll person that I am, little girl that I was, alone as I felt in those days.

The young man reporting from Haiti for the BBC told of a detail of the catastrophe, a detail of a little girl alone. His voice from the radio by my bedside was obviously overwhelmed by his desire and his inability to help, to do more than merely report; what tore him inside was his inability to help at all in the face of so much need all around him. I heard it in his voice.

He reported a few days after the Earthquake from the street where finally people desperate for food had been able to gain access to a store. He was obviously moved, I could hear it in his voice. He told listeners of a little girl, about seven years old, a little girl alone. She had been in the store broken into by desperate others, in one hand she held a bag of dolls, she held in her other hand a tube of toothpaste,the only goods she had acquired from the store. Chaos all around her, a man ran by, grabbed her bag, and the toothpaste tube out of her hands. The young reporter described her cry, pain in his voice, helplessness all around, even as he held the microphone to the keening wail of the little girl, and even as I write these words, my own heart is rent by the remembered sound.

It seems to me her family, her only home, whatever she might have had before the horror of the quake, was gone, and she was alone. It seems to me she took the dolls in desperate need of any kind of family. Her only family was now taken from her, cruelty upon cruelty, a child kicked when clearly down. All children are down, even in the best of circumstances. Care and soothing were not forthcoming for this one in need. She was trying to care for herself and her family of dolls. She had been taught to brush her teeth, and knowing how to care for herself in this way was important to her dignity and sense of reality. In this moment however, dental hygiene was not a comfort allowed her, alone and traumatized though she was in the hellish world she inhabited. I think of her daily since I heard the story, I wish her help and comfort, I wish her soothing and love.

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