In the theology of Judaism, it is written: “You may not be allowed to perfect the work, but neither are you permitted to neglect it” (Pirkei Avot 2:16 – Sefaria). When tasks seemed to overwhelm me, my mother could be heard from another room: “Don’t worry about it. Nothing is perfect. Do the best you can and let God do the rest. Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Her advice often fell on deaf ears and rarely mollified my frustrations. Yet as I grow older, I have come to realize that she was right.
The word “Perfect” ought to be banned simply because its original meaning has been destroyed, perverted and plundered. Whoever used the word for the first time never intended “perfect” to mean: faultless, without blemish, without defect. Not at all! The word in English — Perfect — comes from the Latin: per facio — to act thoroughly. A much more accurate meaning would be: Whenever you act, see it through to the end. Do not stop in mid-course. Finish the job. No matter how flawed. No matter how strenuous and frustrating. My mother was right. She instinctively knew the meaning of the word — perfect. Jesus said it a slightly different way: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62. When I first had my dream of working in Haiti, I was warned: If you are going to start and then stop, do not start. It will be a long, hard pull.
As of now, Haiti is in disaster mode. The State Department has raised travel warnings to Level IV. In a word: Do Not Travel! News accounts are filled with phrases such as: spectacular rise in kidnapping; armed criminal gangs; road blocks; violent demonstrations; visitors attacked and robbed; US citizens targets of opportunity; no one is immune. All this as recently as yesterday!
Do you know what is sad, the saddest of all? Haitians are the only people who broke the chains of slavery to form a Democratic Free Republic, and she is now reduced to the status of hostage because of malevolent, incompetent leadership and the proliferation of guns in the hands of a relatively small group of armed lawless citizens. Peaceful demonstrations of her aggrieved people desiring an end to this outrageous tyranny have been hijacked and perverted. And the situation is worse than that. Millions of Haitians now face famine – and there is no help coming. It is estimated that Haiti needs $253,000,000 in immediate food assistance to meet the crisis. And the crisis is worsening day by day. 40% of the population of 11,000,000 are without food and over 1,200,000 are in “food insecurity,” a pleasant way to avoid using the S word: starvation. So should I propose this idea? Let’s roll this up and get out while the getting is good. This is hopeless. Donor fatigue! Business as usual! Sustainability? Lack of Progress! It will never get better! Same old tune, same old song! Food costs are skyrocketing! This is a lost generation!
Should we stop caring because this is beyond us? A reach too far? No way! No way! I can hear my mother now. “I told you that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Do the best you can. Leave the rest to God.” Do we understand why her advice is the wise path to follow, even though the path be difficult and growing more difficult? Why? Our work is not about our efforts. Our work is about the suffering of Haitian children and their families. It is not about our sustainability. It is about Haitian sustainability. There are children on the far side of this chaos and they are hoping and waiting for any piece — no matter how insignificant — of a future we can give them. 2,100,000 Haitian children under the age of five years are severely malnourished. And those most at risk? Children under 55 months! We want to help. We will help. We will continue. Let us join together!
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