Love Thy Neighbor, Fund a Hero

I think it was Bono who said “Love Thy Neighbor. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a commandment!”
Haiti is a neighbor. We need to love Haiti.

Have you ever known a Haitian? I have. I was a busboy at a restaurant in Ft Lauderdale in 1981 and the dishwasher was a 50 year-old Haitian man named Risha.

I have never seen anyone work so hard, for such long hours. He worked two jobs, 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Remarkable, humble man. Every week he sent his earnings back to his family in Haiti. (After deducting his rent). I am sure my co-workers (brothers Warren and Nick) remember him as fondly as I do.

Risha kept a curled up picture of his family propped up above the sink that he hunched over for all those hours. He was a quiet man with a radiant smile. He was always so happy, and grateful. He taught me French (or was it Creole?), but I will never forget Risha. He left his family so he could find work to save their lives. He was grateful for his American neighbor.
He loved America, told me so every day.
He was my hero, then, and more so today.
Imagine leaving your children and moving to another country to wash dishes 7 days a week in order to save their lives.

America helped Risha save his family. I am sure he has left this earth but he has not left my heart.

We are a great nation. But we are not great because our buildings are the biggest , or our golf courses are the nicest. We are a great nation because we love our neighbors. We are great because we broke DOWN the Berlin Wall. We are great because we stormed the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from Hitler’s unfathomable deeds.

We are great because we airlift humanitarian aid to nations in need, all over the world. Earthquakes are still shaking as our C130 cargo planes are going wheels up, filled with life-saving supplies, doctors, nurses.

Brave Americans of ALL ethnicities run INTO fires to save strangers. Americans of all faiths dive out of helicopters INTO freezing oceans to save drowning strangers. We are great because we respond in the blink of an eye when a neighbor cries out for help. Our National Guard , our Coast Guard, our First Responders. All great, beyond words.

We need to love our neighbors and we need to find heroes to show our children.

Domus in Stamford educates the neighbors that everyone else gave up on. Mike Duggan and his team are my heroes.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor in Greenwich feeds our hungry neighbors. Nancy Coughlin and her staff and volunteers are my heroes.

My wife Katrina was a Meals on Wheels driver. She would bring food, and love, to neighbors who are starving for both. Lynne Stewart and her staff and volunteers are my heroes.

Katrina was also a volunteer at the addiction rehabilitation center called Liberation Programs. She has been mentoring a young woman from gang-infested South Central LA since 1998. She taught her how to change diapers and warm milk and administer medicines. Her 10 year-old son “Little Lowe” calls her “Godmother”. Katrina is my hero.

Find one, thank one, support one, maybe even become one.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-14-56-amMother Teresa of Calcutta is the ultimate hero to me. I have been reading a book about her.

She devoted her life to TOUCHING the lives of the people called the UNtouchables (the “poorest of the poor”). In 1950 she started a religious order called the Missionaries of Charity and walked into the Calcutta slums and delivered love and respect and food and medical attention to God’s poorest children. That level of heroism is hard to fathom for me. Mother Teresa’s legacy? Her religious order 15 years after she died consisted of 4,500 sisters devoted to delivering care and love to our neighbors. She won the Nobel Peace Prize; her religious order is now ministering in 133 countries! She is at the top of my hero list.

So who is your hero?

If you know my sister Lesley, you know who her hero is.
2Doctor Paul Farmer. We need to know who our heroes are. I get a good feeling when I find myself admiring good people.

They need encouragement, appreciation, money, help. Paul Farmer doesn’t have 15 million followers on Twitter. He hasn’t sold 100million records or hit 600 home runs. But, I will tell you this: he is our era’s Mother Teresa. Did that get your attention? I urge you to read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” and learn about what Paul Farmer and his Partners In Health co-founder Ophelia Dahl have been doing for the last few decades. Learn about the work the thousands of PIH heroes do every day to heal our neighbors in Haiti, Rwanda, Mexico, Liberia, Navajo Nation, and more.

Take a look at my sister’s overview of PIH and a report on what’s happening in Haiti three weeks after the devastating Hurricane Matthew hit:

Haiti is often defined by what it lacks: a stable economy, high employment, solid infrastructure, and access to quality food, clean water, and universal health care. For nearly three decades, Partners In Health has worked to reverse that definition. Our program in Haiti, known locally as Zanmi Lasante, is our oldest and most replicated. We operate clinics and hospitals at 12 sites across the Central Plateau and the lower Artibonite, two of the country’s poorest regions, and we are the largest nongovernment health care provider in Haiti, serving an area of 4.5 million people with a staff of more than 5,700.

The hurricane largely spared our principal catchment areas in the Central Plateau, and it had only modest effects on the Artibonite region but it devastated the “southern claw” of Haiti. The death toll has risen to over 1,000. Homes, schools, roads, bridges, health centers and other critical infrastructure have been severely damaged. There has been major loss of crops and trees from what used to be one of the most fertile areas of Haiti. The risk of famine is substantial.

Local and international organizations are mobilizing to provide much needed immediate emergency relief, but the basic health infrastructure is in dire straits. Zanmi Lasante (ZL)/PIH is one of the Haitian Health Ministry’s most important partners in this effort. With the expectation of increases in malnutrition, diarrheal diseases including cholera, tetanus and severe psychological and emotional trauma, it is imperative to fortify and support the whole health system. Our partnership with the Ministry of Health will enable us to play a major role the full spectrum of health care delivery, from treatment to prevention, including participation in the effective distribution of the 1 million doses of oral cholera vaccines which have been made available to Haiti.

 

Paul Farmer and his team of physicians and health workers flew INTO Liberia to fight the Ebola virus two years ago. Imagine that. I was probably watching Notre Dame Vs Stanford on my high-def TV while Dr Farmer and his team were scrambling into their HazMat suits and running into the inferno. THAT is heroic.

We can’t forget our suffering neighbors. It’s a commandment. Let’s take a moment and say a prayer, or meditate if that’s your way, for the souls of the hundreds of Haitians who lost their lives in Hurricane Matthew and the thousands who are mourning them. If you get quiet enough you can hear their tears. Don’t be afraid to feel their pain, be inspired to act. I hope Risha’s family escaped harm.

Love thy neighbor. Haiti is our neighbor. They need our love. Paul Farmer, and Ophelia Dahl , and my sister, can help you help them.

Or just go to PIH.org. They are doing heroic deeds for the poorest of the poor. As we speak.