The following September, a second anomaly in my usual asocial consciousness life occurred: I attended the Pax Christi state convention held at St. Leo's Abbey near Tampa, Florida. At breakfast, on the last morning of this gathering, I found myself seated next to Anne McCarthy, O.S.B., the group's National Coordinator. She mentioned, in passing, that Pax Christi would be sending a delegation to Haiti the last week in October. "I'll go," I announced and everyone at the table—including me—turned around to see who had spoken. The group’s response was marked by amazement and disbelief. The most action they had witnessed from me was an occasional cough. No one really took me seriously—well, almost no one. After breakfast, I went right to the pay phone and called Aaron, my husband.
“I’m going to Haiti,” I said. “Is it all right?”
“Are you asking or telling?” he inquired. He maintains that I tell him things after the fact because I find it easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
“You can go, but we can’t pay for it. You’ll have to find the money.” My husband is an electrical engineer and, at that time, was a partner in a small consulting firm. Since the Fall 1991 Recession had hit, we were squeezed and I knew he was right about not being able to pay for the trip.
“Okay!” I yelled in excitement—and had no earthly idea where I would locate $500 for expenses. It later turned out to be $800. I did not care. I was going. It was official. Why I was going, what I would do there, who I was going with, where I would be staying—nothing was clear. In fact, it still would be unclear when I deplaned six weeks later in Port-au-Prince. Small stuff—it would take care of itself. And, it did.
I do not wait well. I have never been accustomed to existence that did not involve forcing the issue. I am a control freak, inordinately proud my intellectual precision and my focused attack on material presented. Presented is the key word here. Days passed into even more days and I still had no precise or even vague information about the approaching trip. Relatives and friends were asking pointed questions and not only did I not have any good answers—I had no answers at all. Exasperating.
During the interval, I decided that it would be a good idea to try to drag someone else along, as well. When I returned from the convention I called Beth. I had met her earlier in the year and had roomed with her at the Berrigan retreat. We found we had much in common, including an unpleasant experience in the past. Sharing the particulars of this had made us fairly close. My opening telephone remark to her was: “I’m going to Haiti. Do you want to come?” “Yeah, I think so,” was her answer. It was pretty much downhill from there. It sounds crazy. But, nonetheless it is the way it happened. Life altering decisions for both of us had been made on a sort of spur of the moment, almost thoughtless assent. It all seemed so natural, inevitable.
I noted in my journal: “Beth’s friend, Father Sebastian, who lived and worked in Haiti, said this trip to Haiti will change us—that the gift of the place is that we will never view things the same way again. I am counting on, longing for this change—not even knowing what it is or how I will be affected. Everything seems to be building, accumulating toward some breakthrough moment. Is it wishful thinking or reality? How to know? Does knowing even matter?”
On September 28th, I connected with Sr. Anne and found out our Pax Christi delegation would be going from Oct 24th to Nov 1st with orientation in Miami. It sounded perfect. My journal recorded: “I’m beginning to get excited now it’s actually taking shape. It’s real—actual and real. And, a little frightening as well.”
That evening, I noted: “Some Jesuit named John Dear (I think, or maybe I got the name screwed up because of the tractor and four weeks from now I’m gonna be really embarrassed because I don’t know who he is and everybody else obviously does—oh well) and three members of his group in California are going. Anne said they are trying for a group of twelve, which she doesn’t think will be any trouble achieving. I feel such a wild joy about all this—something so deep I can’t really articulate it. I’m almost afraid to delve into it for fear it will prove fraudulent.”
In the meantime, another problem had arisen. The decision that I made so easily was not being accepted as easily by some of my friends and family. I had failed to realize that some personal decisions involve more than one person.