Friday, September 16, 2016

Where is X-son?

Back in December 2011, my husband and I visited Haiti to meet, among the many people there, one young boy.  A friend had met him on a missions trip and fallen in love with him; she thought he might be a great fit for our family; and so we took the trip ourselves to see if we agreed.

This kid (whom we call "X-son" in this blog) was . . . well, charming.  He had a presence.  He was a leader among the kids in his orphanage; he was respectful; he cuddled up to us.  We, too, fell in love and started a long, convoluted adoption process that eventually went nowhere.  (A fuller explanation of what happened to the failed adoption is in this old post).  

Since then, what's happened?  Well, we "supported him" at school in Haiti.  It's hard to feel like that's really support, because a whopping $300 paid for all of his schooling and uniforms and transportation for the year -- but even though it doesn't seem like enough, we sent our $300 and occasional notes down to Haiti along with another missionary friend.

The updates were sometimes sweet, but a lot of the times, they were hard to hear.  A year ago the missionary wrote,
He is doing well. He goes to Mario's school. It is a Haitian school. A poor school. I cannot promise the quality of education but he is happy. He lives with his mom. Life is hard. There is no running water or electric in their area. All water must be carried a long distance. There supposedly is a truck that brings water but if you do not have money to pay, you do not get water.
When we asked about helping pay for water, the missionary cautioned us:  
The one thing I think I would be careful of would be to create a dependency for him and his family. Giving is really tricky. Let me talk with my Haitian advisor on that one. See what we can do.I so not think it will tempt him into trouble, it would create him to ask you for everything. 
 We ended up not sending down money for water.  Contact got increasingly infrequent. I suppose that's to be expected from both ends. X-son at one point asked for money for a computer; instead we arranged for him to share a computer with the son of a local Haitian minister.  And that was the last we heard for a while, except for brief "thinking of you" posts on Facebook.

So when my missionary friend was heading down to Haiti again, I asked her to look up X-son.  Does he need money for school this year?  What's he up to?

She wrote:
I have not seen [X-son] for over a year. Last time I saw him was right before the start of the 2015-2016 school year. I was under the impression that was his last year of school. I do see one of his friends, and he told me that [X-son] was making poor choices. Other than that, I do not have any other information regarding him. I am leaving for Haiti tomorrow and will inquire about him and see what I can find out for you.

He called me a few months ago talking real ghetto-like. Calling me “baby”. He wanted money. It was not the same boy I knew in the past. It really makes me sad for him.
And then, after her trip down, she wrote 
I just got back from Haiti on Saturday and was in Montrouis. I asked several people about [X-son]. No one had information on him. I am under the impression he is making poor decisions in his life. He broke contact with his prior friends that I know and am sorry to say they do not know where he is. I am sorry.
So, we've lost him.  In multiple senses of that word.

Part of me thinks, if we'd managed to get him out of Haiti right when we'd met him, we could have made a real difference.  He was still young enough that we could have taught him English, given him reasonable hope for a decent future, yadda yadda.

Part of me thinks, this is just one kid.  There are so many kids in Haiti in the same situation as X-son: scrambling to find some way to survive in a country that's torn by corruption, deficient in basic needs like food, water, shelter, trash removal -- as well as in bigger social needs, like a functioning government and a stable community infrastructure.

Part of me thinks, Haiti is such a miserable place.  If I were X-son -- buffeted by poverty, typhoid, and natural disasters, steeped in a misogynist, corrupt culture where the people who figure out how to game the system are the ones who survive and thrive -- well, who's to say I wouldn't make similar choices?  Get in with the powerful people. Take what I need.  Stop being a "victim", and get myself up on top.

What X-son has done for me is to make all these abstract, foreign issues personal.  It's not just hungry children somewhere far away; it's my hungry X-son.  It's not just corruption and questions of the best kind of international aid; it's my X-son getting typhoid, running away from the orphanage that beats him, making "poor choices" that might enable him to survive.  

I'm very sorry to have lost him.