Sunday, January 17, 2010

887. Dolls

When I was a little girl, I had a collection of dolls—the small kind meant to be displayed on a shelf—given to me by friends and family who went to more interesting places on vacation than we did. On an old black Smith-Corona, the one my mother used on weekends to type letters for my uncle's whiskey importing business, I made careful labels in all caps listing countries of origin to paste in thin, white strips on the dolls' dresses. There was "MEXICO," woven from straw and holding holding a basket of multi-colored papier-mâché, and "CHINA," two delicate porcelain figurines in a tiny case. And many more—but my favorite was "HAITI," made of coal-black fabric packed tightly with cotton. Her face was capped with a brightly patterned scarf, and she wore little gold hoop earrings. She didn't have a mouth, but her painted-on eyes looked like they were smiling. "Haiti" was more approachable than the other dolls, who were clearly for display; we had tea parties, and I perched her on the side of my dresser at night for company. Even before I knew where Haiti was, who lived there, or what language they spoke, I felt as if I had seen those smiling eyes for real. She was just a doll from an unknown friend of the family who thought to pick up a gift in an airport shop, but she made a child feel connected to a place and people that would otherwise be foreign, unknown, too distant for concern.

That feeling never left. To write that the devastation in Haiti is impossible to comprehend, unbearable to hear about a thousand times a day on the news, is just to repeat what everyone has said. There aren't any more words left, just action. Please give money. I wish I had more money to give. I do have an unlimited supply of prayers; I don't know if they make a difference, but they can't hurt. I hate that human beings are engineered so that other peoples' tragedies remind us to be grateful to be alive, safe, with food in our bellies, but we are and I am, more so than ever.

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