Francois Filogene is the superintendent of schools for 23 schools and over 5,000 children in the Pignon, Ranquitte area. He is the proctor for academic testing groups. He is the father of 4. He is the epitome of dignity , integrity and love for his people. He is not just my translator , he is my friend. He is truly my right hand as well as my ears, my tongue and my heart. He prepares the children every morning for my arrival. He is like the warm up comedienne for David Letterman or the warm up band before the main attraction. Every morning when I arrive to teach, the children are bright, alert and ready. We laugh, cry, plan and provide together for the children of Haiti.

After Breakfast
Each morning I have eaten well.
Each morning belly is full American style
Energized after breakfast,
Just like in America,
I teach full of energy for the children of Haiti.
I hop, skip, run, perform and encourage them
just like I do in America.
Every day after lunch
I'm abundantly, blindly full of
Home made bread, eggplant casserole,
Beans, heaping mounds of rice,
Fresh garden tomatoes, plantains,
Chunks of Velveeta cheese
And slice, after slice, after slice
Of fresh off the tree
Sweet, succulent, elbow dripping
Finger licking
Mangos like I've never tasted in America.
Rejuvenated, I'm ready once again
To hop, skip, run, perform and teach my Haitian students
just like in America.
Yet, I noticed
there is such lethargy among my translators and helpers
during our afternnon sessions.
I scolded them for their lack of pep and zip.
On the second afternoon,
around 2:00
I was satiated from a bountiful cornucopia of food
and armed to teach.
Francois, my dear friend and translator
Was holding his head up with his hand,
Blurry eyed, repeating after me in a tired
Monotone Creole fashion.
My Haitian students imitated him
In a blurry eyed, lazy daisy tired monotone Creole fashion
At my wits end, frustrated,
With a slip of the tongue
Concerning François having had lunch,
I mistakenly asked,
“Have you not had breakfast, Francois?”
“No Missus Yolantha, not yet.”
I froze recognizing my error
Yet amazed at his response.
I stopped breathing.
“Did you have breakfast yesterday?”
“No Missus Yolantha, not yet.”
Still holding my breath
“Have you had breakfast this week?”
“No missus, not yet.”
I was stripped of my Christianity right then and there.
My brain knows that
I am in one of the poorest countries in the world.
I see daily the distended bellies and
Reddish blondish malnutritioned hair.
I see the water that we as Americans aren't able to drink.
I have witnessed the same water
laundered in, urinated in by the donkeys, and
Cooked with by the women.
I've witnessed dying babies that were tearless
because they were too dehydrated to cry.
But in my religiosity
In my goody goodness
In my American ego,
In my Jim crowed-slavery mentality
In my Rodney King
Sister of lynched brothers
In my institutionalized callousness--
Until now
It was all National Geographic to me.
But the “not yet” stripped me of my ungodly ways
It was the “hope” that stood tall in the
Not yet
a hope that I had the power in my hands to do something about.
How does one make a difference in a country full of
“not yets?”
Every day from that moment on
I stuffed food in my pockets for my dear friend, and brother Francois.

Memo to Self
Sunday evening
I slid the peanuts off of my plate into my pocket

Monday morning
I gave the nuts to Francois.

Monday evening
In my pocket I stuffed a chunk of bread and pulled off a handful of Velveeta cheese

Tuesday morning
I provided breakfast of Velveeta Cheese and bread
For my translator and friend, Francois
“You have nuts for me Missus Yolantha?”
“No not today”
Memo to self, “hmmm, so now we're putting in orders for breakfast?”
Memo to missionary self, “Remember the nuts tomorrow.”

Tuesday evening
I use my finger to scoop out peanut butter on a chunk of homemade bread

Wednesday morning
Francois my translator and friend
Slowly accepted my offering of peanut butter and homemade bread
“No nuts today Missus Yolantha?” sadly asks Francois, my translator and friend.
“No not today.” I heard my American upbringing unchaining itself in the dungeon of my heart. “Beggars can't be choosy” rattled around in the depths of my lungs, but for the Grace of God did not slip past my lips. I felt guilty as soon as I had thought the thought. It seems you can take the American out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the American.

Wednesday evening
I made it from the table with Velveeta cheese,
Fried bananas, 2 chunks of homemade bread,
And a hand full of nuts

Thursday morning
“Ah nuts,” exclaimed Francois with a huge grin, “Thank you so much Missus Yolantha.”
He takes off like an Olympian taking a victory lap with his proud prize of Planters peanuts.

15 minutes later
On my way to join François
I pass
Long lines of people
Standing waiting outside of the clinic
They are 2 hours early
Before the doors even open
It reminds me of when I once stood
In the food stamp line in America
Memo to self
Next year I must try
To provide food for the
Long lines of people
Waiting for the clinic to open.
My soul cringes
“Next year!”
That's 365 days of “Not yets”
365 days of hoping.
Arriving to my classroom a few minutes early to teach
I made my grande entrance,
Unexpected, I stepped into the classroom
There was Francois preparing the children.
François was walking around the jam packed,
Over crowded classroom
That broke every municipal school building rule
and fire code in America
Handing out to every child
one peanut.
Every child's quietly outstretched hand patiently waited
with hope to receive
Their only breakfast in months.
One peanut.
Memo to American self”
“Is there a rung on the ladder lower than humbled?”
What kind of hope was I providing in the name of my Father who owns the cattle on a thoudand hills and who owns the meadows with acres and acres of peanuts?


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