I’m a proud Rotarian since 1990, and I have never been part of something more satisfying than this experience of hosting Jibens and his guardian Neuis for 3 weeks. Making it possible was my wife Jean, who did almost all of the caring, along with a great Patchogue Rotary team of Warren, Karen, Frenie, Donna and more.

While Rotary gave Jibens the “Gift of Life”, with his mended heart…Jibens gave us an equally important “Gift of Life”….which was his unconditional trust and love. Jibens doesn’t speak English, but he got his point across very well. At one point, he pointed to my favorite solid-black sculpture of a mother, father & child and said “qui” (yes). Not exactly sure why, but he wanted the sculpture in his room during his stay…and so we did.

Jibens, a 9 year old boy, would flash an enchanting smile all day long, with dimples that wouldn’t quit. What a joy. Jibens marveled as much at the paper clip & “elastic” (i.e. Rubber band) collection in my home office, as he did while singing along with the Haitian national anthem video from on my wife’s laptop. And, the thrill on his face was priceless as we drove thru the local car wash, while he blasted EVERY radio station louder than I knew was even possible…while explaining to me in French Creole what he was doing. I don’t speak creole.

We went to the Patchogue Village holiday parade, and Jibens was justifiably a little cold. So, I lent him my cherished wool hat, from my championship softball team. Never did that hat look as good on me as it did on this kid with a million dollar smile. As we watched the parade, I bought him a $10 illuminated spinning color wheel, and he was in heaven as various marchers gave him multiple candy cans. At 6:00 am this morning, he carried that flashing spinning wheel onto the American Airlines jet bound for home. And, when I returned home, I realized that he also took my cherished wood hat as well. And, that’s where it belongs!

An experience like this reminds me how well we have it in America, but also how happy others can be coming from simpler means…such as Jiben’s home of Haiti. And, how it is important to reach across otherwise distant borders, to connect. Programs like “Gift of Life” are priceless to children, but also have a great impact on International relations…and people like Jean & I.

Thank you Gift of Life! And, thank you Jibens…until we meet again! Enjoy your parents and your birthday tomorrow.

Steve & Jean Fuoco