I believe it began when two of the friends/colleagues accompanying me to Haiti and I visited Dr. Ghitan at
Maimonides Travel Clinic. Dr. Ghitan is a friend, mother to two of my piano students, and the Associate Chief
and Program Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine. She graciously offered to care for us, informing us of the vaccinations and medications we need for our trip, discussing procedures to follow - what to eat and what NOT to eat, what mosquito sprays to use on ourselves and our clothes, what to do if we become ill, etc. – and then she administered the vaccinations. I needed five – typhoid, hepatitis A, polio, flu, and Tdap [tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis]. I left her office with Band-Aids on both arms, papers to read and two prescriptions: one for a 16-day supply of malarone [malaria prevention] the I need to begin a few days before I
leave for Haiti, and one for a 3-day supply of ciprofloxacin [just in case]. The chant that evening: typhoid, and hep A, and more! Oh my!
I took some time to ponder why this scene with melody may be a persistent motif. Dorothy moves from a familiar, grayscale world to a vivid, unknown world. She embarks on a journey, following a set path to a
specific destination, in an attempt to return home. Her companion from the grayscale world, Toto, travels with her. They forge ahead together on a golden path and are joined by Tin Man and Scarecrow, who both warn her of dangers that may lay ahead. The ruby slippers Dorothy now wears keep her safe, keep her grounded.
It is a journey of self-discovery, a journey to find the way home. It is a wrought with dangers, detours and roadblocks, and full of friendship, love, and care. The repeated refrain of “Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!” communicates Dorothy’s fear, anxiety, and worry. Whoa!
Fear, anxiety, and worry…yes, there is an element of fear in traveling to a third-world country, the poorest in the western hemisphere. Nothing will prepare me for what I will see, what I will smell, what I will hear, and what I will feel as I travel through the city of Port-au-Prince out into the countryside towards L'Espinasse, and in the days that follow. I’ve watched documentaries about the earthquake’s aftermath and I saw Oprah’s interview with Sean Penn. In my mind, I can rationalize what is coming; in my heart, I know I will be forever changed.
Yes, there is an element of anxiety in knowing that our group needs to be met by someone at the airport to secure safe passage through Port-au-Prince into the countryside. Arrangements have been made to ensure we are never traveling unaccompanied while in Haiti. Safety is a major concern.
And yes, there is an element of worry...not in making the trip itself. It is a concern that I can indeed offer some sort of help to a people whom I cannot truly empathize with. I will never fully understand the extent of their poverty. I can, however, be witness to their living conditions and I will help tell their story to others.
It occurs to me that fear and faith are closely related. Both deal with an unknown, a belief that what is unknown will, or will not, occur. When we are afraid, or know, that something will [or will not] happen, we experience fear. When we hope, or know, that something will [or will not] happen, we experience faith. Dorothy is fearful. She, however, never meets a tiger or bear, and the lion she meets is afraid of her. Perhaps the image of Dorothy is how my doubts manifest themselves, bringing them front and center, albeit only for a moment.
To her credit, Dorothy befriends the lion, makes it through a dangerous landscape, and skips onward towards the Emerald City. She has faith that the Wizard of Oz will help her in her quest to return home. Thanks to Toto, Dorothy and her friends, sooner rather than later, learn that what they were in search of was inside them all along. A favorite line in the movie is spoken by Glinda to Dorothy: “…you’ve always had the power…” The ruby
red slippers Dorothy was wearing would take her wherever she wanted to go. All she needed to do was click her heels and believe.
We all have power inside us. The power I have is faith, a faith that sustains me. And I’ve got ruby red slippers too...well, not really…but I’ve got walking shoes! Put on your shoes so that you are ready to spread the Good News that gives peace. [Ephesians 6:15, God’s Word Translation]
Until next time.