On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Haiti in Tears
The Footloose Forester knows there are plenty of times when emotions seeped out from his subconscious to the daylight of his true nature. Sometimes in the past, he challenged danger to prove to himself that he was not a coward; but he never wanted to deny that he could and would cry when his person demanded it. There are several events that sparked his inner courage to admit his propensity to weep without hesitation. He always preferred softness to hardness; and compassion over indifference. So starting this chronicle, at all, may require that he confess his feelings from past episodes of weeping. As always, the exercise in chronicling is not to boast, but to remember.
Perhaps the place to start is the long-ago funeral of his favorite uncle, Elmer Best. All of his brothers and sisters were alive at that time, and we all attended the funeral in Netcong, New Jersey. After the last public words were spoken at the side of the casket in the funeral home, we started to shuffle out. He remembers vividly the scene that took place in the vestibule. Brothers Ronny, Joe, Jim, and Paul joined Footloose Forester in a circle where we all locked arms. Footloose was first to sob openly and loudly. All of his magnificent brothers followed suit. Imagine, five brothers, standing in a circle crying. How could he not be proud of them? After about a minute, he told them how proud of them he was; and that he himself always preferred softness to hardness. Some people may think crying is a sign of weakness. He thinks it is an outward sign of humanity.
Footloose Forester also cried to himself when he thought of the dire living conditions of Thu’s Uncle Nam in Saigon, Viet Nam, by then living as a subject of the victorious communists; he remembers weeping as he remembered the poor villagers in Indonesia, within a week after returning from several months there. At that time of reflection, he was driving alone along a road in Hawaii, and he recalls saying out loud—to himself, that they are his people. The thought and the emotions just surfaced. Anyone who wants to label him as a bleeding heart liberal should go ahead. That is what he is and that is who he wants to be.
Finally, he wants to remember the tears he shed for a thief that he saved from being beaten to death by a mob in Kenya. There, thieves caught in the act were sometimes killed on the spot, if people had the means. That particular car thief had been caught and was beaten into unconsciousness in front of the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. We USAID employees could see the events unfolding from the windows of our offices directly overlooking the small square in front of the hotel. When a uniformed taxi driver picked up a sharp metal sign, heavy base and all, and starting swinging it to sever his head at the neck, Footloose Forester hurried from his office, down the elevator, and to his side.
There were about 150 people in the mob, but he forced his way through to guard the prostrate thief until the police arrived. Members of the mob were the ones that told him that the man was a thief. One of them said that they were going to burn him on the spot and that someone was coming with gasoline. Several people jeered in agreement. One man added that he had the matches. Footloose Forester replied that they all would have to go through him, first. “He is my brother. He is your brother. If you want to harm him, you will have to start with me.” There, he finally said it. That thief was his brother. Later, at home, he teared up again when he told his wife about saving the man’s life. In retrospect, there was no fear when he waded into the middle of that hostile crowd. Was God standing by him? No, He was up ahead clearing the way.
As a final episode, the following scripture reading was read, on its scheduled Sunday, just a few days after the Haiti earthquake of 12 January 2010:
First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 12:4 -11
Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Sprit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another, prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as He wishes.
The Footloose Forester always strived to lead a purpose-driven life. The Haiti earthquake of 2010 was a clear sign that he was in a strong position to make a difference on a personal level. Therefore, he decided to volunteer for service in Haiti, on the day before he read the prophetic scripture reading while attending church services. Unfortunately, none of the three different attempts to volunteer his services was taken seriously enough to command a return phone call or ongoing dialogue. But while he read, then re-read, the scripture passage, he did not know that he would be ignored. He knew what he should do, how to proceed, and he was fully committed to going.
Aftermath of the Haiti earthquake on 12 January 2010
The personal experience of living in Haiti for almost five years gave him first-hand awareness of some of the places mentioned on radio and TV, and of the graphic scenes depicted in newspapers and on TV. He had often attended working sessions at the Hotel Montana that collapsed on 12 January, but he himself stayed there only once over the years. The collapse of the Canape Vert Hospital (unconfirmed by a personal identification from photos) suggested that his old neighborhood was one of several foci of devastation. His home on the same hillside was within walking distance, and he and Thu often attended Mass at their quiet chapel.
The Pellek residence in Haiti, 1986-89
Although his home was spared, there were many important buildings that were heavily damaged. The utterly destroyed National Cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince was a bit out of the way, but they also attended there once or twice. In all, the growing number of places and individual buildings that he knew well weighted down his sense of loss. The Footloose Forester believes that God still has quite a few assignments that He wants to be carried on by the Footloose Forester, in Haiti. His passport is current and he has his sunglasses at the ready.
About the author
WOW! I sat there watching the news every day about Haiti watching I could be there to help. You did it! Great experience that can never be replaced.