The Haitian Cook and St. Augustine
When Jackson Jean-Baptiste was with Maria and me during the month of December, he was really sick. However, many people here got to know him as much as Jackson would allow. People became attached to him in some way probably due to his fragile condition. He was very thin, spoke softly and deliberately, and walked slowly. But his mind worked very well.
Maria and I got to know him quite well. He told us about his mother’s life. She travels 12 hours once a week to a southern coastal city in Haiti to buy used clothes and sell them on the street near Jackson’s home. She makes the round trip in one day.
His father worked in a quarry. One day, when Jackson was just a boy, while his father was hanging from the side of the cliff by a rope, an enemy of his in the neighborhood, cut the rope with his machete. Jackson’s father plunged to his death suffering a massive head injury. Jackson told us the story impassively. When I asked him if he knew where the man lived that cut the rope, he replied “yes”. Nothing was ever done to bring the man to justice. Jackson seemed to accept that. He couldn’t do anything about it anyway. He was poor.
Last night, the cook approached me near the kitchen. He is a very black man with a kind face and nice smile. He told me that Jackson’s death had “hurt his (the cook’s) chest”. I told him I felt very sad too. The cook just shrugged his shoulders and looked at me with his very expressive eyes. He said, “Doctors are not God. You did all you could for him and God did the rest.” But the cook did not know, and will never know, our riches at home and why we should have helped God with Jackson. We simply did not do our part in Peoria.
The Haitian cook, who works very hard for very little salary, gave us more support regarding Jackson’s death than did any member of the Leaders of the Catholic Medical Center in Peoria that rejected Jackson during his days of suffering and misery when something could have been done. The Catholic Diocese Hierarchy had no supportive words either regarding Jackson as we buried him near Peoria.
Yet, this poor Haitian cook told me how hurt he was that Jackson died. Jackson’s death meant more to this poor man than all the rich men I know at home. A Haitian had lost another Haitian brother. Rich men lose stocks, jobs, money, homes, and objects. The death of Jackson meant nothing to the rich at home.
Saint Augustine wrote:
Let us by our prayers add the wings of piety to our alms deeds and fasting so that they may fly more readily to God. Moreover, the Christian soul understands how far removed he should be from theft of another’s goods when he realizes that failure to share his surplus with the needy is like theft. The Lord says: “Give, and it shall be given to you; forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” (Cf. Luke 6:37,38)