Back in March of this year, my friend Maggie and I took off for a week in the Bahamas. We bypassed the glitz of Nassau for the humbler pleasures of the Abaco Islands, specifically Great Abaco. In the center of the long, slender island lies the town of Marsh Harbour. Yes, that Marsh Harbour.
The house we had rented belonged to a couple named Nancy and Rusty Angstadt. While we enjoyed the comforts of their residence — called “DoneReach” — they occupied the cozy dock house. The enclave where they live is called the Eastern Shore of Great Abaco. A few beautiful homes line a narrow limestone road running along the sea.
Usually, Rusty and Nancy afford their guests privacy and independence, as in, need a lift to the ferry? Call a taxi. Need supplies from the grocery store in Marsh Harbour? Ditto. Have an emergency? We’re here for you.
For some reason, however, both Rusty and Nancy took a shine to us. They took us to their favorite restaurants, introduced us to the locals, drove us to and from the ferries, and loaded us in their boat for a glorious cruise to lunch at the Abaco Inn.
Every day Maggie and I grabbed our tote bags and headed for an outlying cay. Because it was March, tourists were few. The locals everywhere humored us, posing for pictures, letting us hitch rides in golf carts, and engaging us in extensive conversations.
The kindest man we met was Sylvain, a Haitian who took care of the grounds around Rusty and Nancy’s house. Sylvain had lived in The Mudd, a Haitian shantytown in Marsh Harbour. When his hut there burned, Rusty gave him a raise and set him up in an apartment. He has worked for them for years.
Rusty and Nancy wisely leave the Abacos during hurricane season, settling in to their home in Pennsylvania. Sylvain does not leave. He is the pastor of a small congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Marsh Harbour.
Since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Abacos, Rusty and Nancy can’t reach Sylvain. Rusty scans the manifests of evacuees, hoping to see his name. So far, nothing.
When Maggie asked what we could do to help the survivors, Rusty sent us this note:
“Maggie and Carol,
Dear ladies, you are so kind. Thank you for being our friends. Our Eastern Shore group has already raised, packaged and delivered by private boat and planes hundreds of thousands of dollars of aid relief goods directly to the people. No sticky fingers or other ‘leakage.’ Here’s the website to donate. www.fortheloveofabaco.com ”
DoneReach and the other homes on the Eastern Shore have been obliterated, along with everything else on the island. Dorian was no respecter of persons. Yet these goodhearted folks with access to resources have quickly organized a relief effort for their friends who are unable to help themselves.
I don’t know about you, but when I donate in the wake of a disaster, it’s reassuring to know that every penny gets to the folks who need help.
We give out of care for our fellow man, gratitude for our blessings, and, for those of us who have been touched by its people, peace and beauty, for the love of Abaco.