Outside the doctor’s office

BOYNTON BEACH, FL — I had just stepped out of the doctor’s office and was phoning a loved one with the good news that I’m healthy, which is especially important as I am about to lose my health insurance, when a woman interrupted and said, “Will you do me a favor and watch them for a second?”

The rain announcing Tropical Storm Fay was coming down again, and she wanted to dash to her car without soaking her two little boys, who were sitting in the stroller that she thrust in front of me.

As I held the stroller, and continued into the phone about my good fortune, a great relief since  I had put off having tests for fear of coming down with a “pre-existing condition” (which I think means “unworthy of care”), the back boy, who was older, maybe around two, got restless and decided to get out. We went through several rounds of mild argument about his need to stay in the stroller, which I told his mother about when she pulled up in the family sedan, so she’d understand why I was now arm wrestling with her son.

She apologized to me and slapped his hand, at which he slapped hers back, at which she slapped his harder, at which I asked where she was from.

“Haiti,” she said, and seemed to brace herself.

I told her I had been there just this last year, love it, think it’s a beautiful place, one of my favorite.

It was all true, though I may have gone on longer than I needed to in hopes of interrupting the escalating cycle of hand-slapping.

“Really?” she smiled, looking pleased. “You don’t hear that very often, you know.”

I do know, having taken as long as I had to get there, but now that I have been, it seems odd that that’s the case. It’s a very poor country that has been kicked around a lot by richer countries, virtually on all sides, and that’s created misery and anger, but it’s also a place of strong will, creative spirit, spontaneity and humor. It is colorful, dramatic, exotic and our neighbor.

And it seems odd what low regard we seem to hold for our neighbor, we, who are represented on the international stage by the world’s most famously ignorant person, who, although we are not struggling for food and shelter still can’t seem to stop shooting each other,  who squander our resources on symbols of success and  who, in the most powerful country on earth, are all one layoff away from losing the ability to care for our health.

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