We were making jokes about it –calling ourselves the #hospitalhomeless, the Piedmont Squatters–my sister and I. We’d arrived at the hospital before 5am for our mom’s heart surgery. Our bags were filled with granola bars, bottled waters, and pretzels. Trust me, the Occupy movement had nothing on us. We had no intention of leaving until we were sure mom was in the clear.
We knew the cafeteria was a death trap, so we thought we were in France when we found a little cafe that sold baked goods and soups. It would be a home run for our mom when she was feeling up to eating. Faith took a panoramic picture of the shelves topped with muffins, croissants, and lemon-chicken orzo soup so we could tempt mom to eat when she woke. They gave complimentary oyster crackers out too. (We love a complimentary packet of crackers! Come by it honest. When mom felt up to examining her hospital tray, she may have refused to eat their cardboard sausage and rubbery scrambled eggs, but she snatched up their packets of Splenda “for company” and had us put them in her bag.) We figured out that if we really were homeless, we would come to the hospital to live. There are bathrooms, loads of empty waiting rooms (some with actual benches), and the complimentary oyster crackers. One could, in theory, survive.
While we were crammed into our waiting room chairs, we did our annual family name draw, and everyone had their kids make a quick list of things they might like to have for Christmas. We congratulated ourselves for multi-tasking while we waited for news on our mom. We even did some Christmas shopping then and there, on our smartphones.
Christmas Shopping. Check.
The first night, while mom lay in the ICU with wires, chords, and IV’s dangling from her like tinsel on a Christmas tree, we sprawled out on 3 chairs and a coffee table attempting to get some sleep.
The Hospital Homeless
That was us.
There we were in a state of the art hospital with a top medical team from Europe treating our mother, temperature controlled rooms, countless food options, and no real needs in the world.
The irony escaped me at the time. It wasn’t until later, after we’d been discharged, after mom had spent a week convalescing at my house, when I went to send my Haitian Sponsorship Child, Rosemine, a Christmas gift (another item checked off my list), that I remembered.
A part of planet’s population separated by miles and by privilege, by needs and by wants, by governments and geography, and by homes or the lack thereof. Really, truly homeless.
A nation with wants far different than ours.
Real Needs. Not Wants.
Because to be hospital homeless for them would be paradise. I’d forgotten that 96% of Haitians have no access to health coverage or basic healthcare. We fuss and fight over healthcare access here in the states, but for a mere $400 we could supply a new leg for a real-live human being who doesn’t even care if they get free annual wellness checks; they just want to be able to rejoin society and walk.
The Haitian Christmas list?
To go to school.
To fall asleep under a real roof.
God forgive us all. It isn’t what we have that is wrong, it is that we are unwilling to share. No one is asking us to feel guilty for being born in a privileged country with resources at the ready. That’s not the point. The point is this: We, you and I, are privileged so we can provide. We’re granted blessings to give blessings. We have access so we can open doors for others. We’re not meant to hoard but to help.
Perhaps you’d like to see what Mission of Hope is doing to help? Here’s one glorious glimpse into the prosthetic world. When the earthquake ripped limbs from bodies like pages from a notebook, Mission of Hope decided to step in. The going rate on the ground in Haiti for a prosthetic is around $400. It would take the average Haitian 1/3 of a year to earn the money to pay for a prosthetic–if they bought no food, shelter or other necessities. In reality, most natives will never afford a prosthetic rendering them permanently helpless, marginalized members of an already suffering society. Three prosthetic labs remain on the ground today in Haiti, and Mission of Hope’s lab is the only one giving custom fitted prosthetics at no cost to the patients. No cost.
Here’s the beautiful thing. The head prosthetist? He’s a man by the name of Nono, a native Haitian who first visited the lab seeking a prosthetic for his own son. And the funding? Well, it comes from people like you and I, yes. But do you know where else it comes from? 3 Chords–another arm of Mission of Hope that employs disabled Haitians, pays them a living wage, and uses the profits to fund the prosthetic lab. It’s a purposeful reversal of the cycle of poverty and disability into a cycle of life and hope. MOH is empowering marginalized Haitians to self-sufficiency and equipping them to empower their fellow Haitian. The prosthetics lab serves over 500 people currently. You can learn about this incredible work in a video interview I did on the ground in Haiti.
Perhaps this year as our families begin to make Christmas lists and look at Black Friday sales, we could begin with a real need–a Haitian need.
You can give so easily RIGHT HERE.
My mom walked out of the hospital on both her legs. Her surgery, covered largely by health insurance, was successful. Hers is a story typical of those blessed to be born in North America.
But whose story can you and I change this holiday season? A lot of times you hear people say things like, ‘they have no hope over there.’ But they do have hope, you know?
There hope is over here.
With you and I.
In our wallets.
In our bank accounts.
Let’s give together.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.