Monday, June 11, 2007
Yesterday Fitz did an outdoor show at Gaining Ground. This is a very cool program near Thoureau's birthplace, 9 acres of gardens where organic produce is farmed by volunteers and then donated to area shelters and food pantries. We arrived early so Fitz could set up, and I walked through the gardens with the kids. Pipo asked what this place was, and I tried explaining it to him. "It's a special garden where people volunteer (what is volunteer? - it's when people work for free - HUH? People work for free???) And they give all the food they grow to poor people who have nothing to eat." Pipo was quiet for a minute, thinking about that. Then he says to me "Why don't they just let the poor people have this land to farm?"
I had no answer from him. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The deforestation over the years has been astounding. The land has literally been raped. Only 2% of the mountain forests remain, and this deforestation aggravates flooding and soil erosion, leaving little arable land for subsistence farming. Five acres of good soil, planted in beautiful gardens is almost incomprehensible to my son. And the idea of the rich people driving up in their Lexus or Hummer, to 'volunteer' to pick food to give to poor people... how do I possibly explain this?
Gaining Ground is a great program. But is there a better way? I stood out at the bus stop this morning discussing this with a neighbor. We both looked around us. Our neighborhood, scattered with nice little houses with good sized yards, plenty of woods. It's all good land. But none of it is being used for sustenance. We have almost an acre here, a big back yard with a soccer field set up for the kids. I wonder if Pipo thinks about Haiti when he is out back. I wonder if he thinks about the fact that his grandmother would probably have given anything to have this much fertile land.
We like to cry poor here, raising our family of 9 on a teacher's salary. We live month to month, some months being tighter than others, wondering which bills to pay, and which will have to wait. And then I get this reminder of my own stupidity. I look around at the abundance of resources in my own backyard, and I think of people all over the world who don't even have a little patch to plant. I am so incredibly humbled right now.