My mother's family was very poor. Her Icelandic mother did not speak English and her Scottish father did not always have work. When I was a little boy, my Mom often told me stories that I could not believe. I could not fathom the poverty she described. My Dad had a very good job and we were certainly not poor and there was no poverty I could see in Calgary. However, my Mom was one of seven children who were born during the years from World War One through the Great Depression. They did not have enough money for anything. There was no money for food, for shoes, for schoolbooks, or for medical care. Mom told me they often survived on bread, fat drippings, and salt. She left school to work after grade seven. One memorable story is that after my Mom cut her thumb seriously with a knife, her mother was obliged to take her to the doctor to have the thumb sewn back together. As my Mom describes the situation, her mother alternately cried and screamed in Icelandic all the way to the doctor because the family could not afford to pay the medical fees. Because of the accident the family did not eat for a few days.
My mother has been in my thoughts a lot during this trip to Haiti. The families in Haiti are likely even poorer than my mother's family, but maybe not. Many children in Haiti cannot afford school and this reminds me that my mother's education was cut short. When I purchased three pairs of shoes for my interpreter I thought of my Mom without shoes as a little girl in Vancouver. Many remark that there is a circle of life. This can mean many things. I think there are many circles, and in a strong sense, this trip helped me to complete a circle started with my mother's stories.