God bless those who stand between children and dark places.

I am growing older, just not sure about wiser. I have spent the last week of my life handing one emergency after another at work, and trying to only barely miss my deadlines against a word count that makes my brain feel ransacked every day and leads me to forget punctuation altogether and indulge in run on sentences – which of course does nothing for meeting my deadlines with quality products… I have to apologize to both of you out there that follow this blog regularly, but there wasn’t time to update the thing. Of course there was time to get into a life-changing fight with a family member, work a 15 hour shift on valentine’s day, realize I would never recover my relationship with an old friend, and I had to stand hip deep in snow drifts while I jumped my car from my wife’s.

So, you could say I’m a little stressed.

It is at times like this that I try to focus on being positive. I stood like a man when my coworkers needed me, I finished a difficult story and submitted it for review with the publisher, I have managed to steal some quality time with my beautiful wife.

I am about to go to LaGrange for a writer’s seminar- one of my favorite things in the world – and I was able to help out an old friend and a respected teacher. That’s leading me to a somewhat philosophical point, so let me get the self promotion out of the way to start:

I have taken to putting up first draft excerpts of my work on my Facebook page. Putting the first draft online is a lot like streaking through a theater, without the charm of being somebody’s wacky frat-brother. Still, just like streaking will make you want to keep in shape, putting a first draft up makes you work just a little bit harder on it. In any case, if you friend me, you can check out the notes and get a preview of what’s coming.

And as far as the LaGrange Writer’s Seminar it will be two days of food, wine, and discussions from knowledgeable authors – and myself. Stop by the website for more details.

And on to the serious stuff.

I have a confession: I do not often give. Overall, I don’t agree with giving. There’s historical evidence that earning is fantastic for a country. Effort builds character and gives value to wealth. There is also ample examples of people, states, and countries that are given, or who discover, great wealth with little effort. They universally turn into hellholes pretty quickly as soon as the free money runs out.

Then there’s the bastard factor. Learning that most fundraising organizations exist to pay themselves huge salaries for raising funds, instead of distributing said charitable dollars, has given me a jaundiced eye toward handing out money. The police say that if you give to homeless people all you’re likely doing is supporting a drug or alcohol addiction. There are reports that in North Korea bags of foreign aid marked rice are used to feed the army. Many foreign countries steal the lion’s share of aid given to them. Haiti funds seem to fall into all of these categories.

Do not speak to me of overcrowding, of poor farm land, or any other such things. The Dominican Republic shares both the same geography and a border, and it’s doing just fine. If nothing else, if you can’t make mountains of money getting pale, fat Americans paying $8 a glass for well rum mixed drinks while they fry themselves on your Caribbean beaches then it is safe to say you have boned it big time.

Safe to say that Haiti has issues, and It’s pretty easy to see where the blame goes. Still, it’s hard to ignore that the US alone has sent hundreds of millions of dollars a year to this tiny nation, only to have it largely squandered. Once I saw a video of earthquake hammered Haitians -not asking- but demanding aid and I simply turned off the TV and went about my business. I am not into people demanding help. If you need help, really need help, then perhaps some humility is in order. That aside, when  your federal budget is 1/3 from foreign sources, I feel enough has been given and it is time for you to find some damn bootstraps.

That being said, writing the Radiation Angels has given me a greater understanding of dictatorships, countries ruled by military juntas, and sometimes you can’t do anything about something that sucks, no matter how much it sucks. One can surely blame the ruling class. You can even blame the adult population.

I remember growing up and how kids find the holes in the rules to the detriment of those they choose to ostracize. I know the things that happen when the teachers are not watching, and what can go on where there are no bright lights. I cannot imagine growing up where the adults bring no safety, where everyone is split into tribes and clans, where every street is without lights. There are places where the strong still rule the weak, and people are still property. The weakest are always in need of help, now more than ever. Say what you want, but the kids are in need, and none of this is their fault.

That still brings me to whom should I give money? I was lead to the answer by Patrick Toon, an old friend. It turns out one of our history teachers in high school, Jean R. Cadet, was a child slave in Haiti –  a practice called restavek. He has started a foundation to help these children called the Restavek Foundation. It wasn’t just the fond memories of a man who kindled my love for The Scarlet Pimpernel, it was that he appears to be doing good work, and doing it well.

He escaped a place where one can buy a child in 10 hours, a feat that deserves respect in and of itself, and escaped to a country that has one of the highest standards of living in the world. And after that, he went back to help those he left behind.

The foundation has 100% if its operating costs covered by a grant. That means if you give $100 to Cadet, the kids in Haiti get $100. And in a country where most people make $2 a day, the money goes far. That’s the kind of math I can get behind. I hope you can too.

Learn more about Jean R. Cadet’s life as a child slave.

Learn what they’ve done and what they are doing now.

And if you need a little more bang for your buck, then you can donate money and make an actor run. And if you’ve never seen an actor run, believe me it is funny.

And then I look at the past few weeks and my problems don’t seem so bad. And then it hits me:

Plenty of countries, of dictators, and bastards have used Haiti for their own devices. It has been squeezed for blood until it is bruised to the bone. Others have tried to save it, without coming even within bowshot of success. If Haiti is ever to have a George Washington, Joan of Arc, Gandhi,  or Charlemagne, then (s)he’s going to need a place to grow up safe, to learn how to be giving, to be merciful, to be moral and strong, how to be an adult – how to believe in heroes, and to be a hero. It needs a hero of the kind that even bullets cannot kill him/her. Haiti deserves the chance. That chance means time. Time takes money.

$1, $5, $10, $100, please give.

The minutes you buy could make all the difference.

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