Editor’s note: Since April of 2001 longtime WorldNetDaily contributor Anthony C. LoBaido has made no less than eight trips to the idyllic Caribbean nation of Belize. In this three-part Christmas special, LoBaido weaves together the stories of an at-risk baby, modern Pharisees seeking to cast the first stone, thwarted would-be assassins and a real-life Cinderella. The latter is Miss Belize, Karen Russell, who not long ago turned the Miss World Pageant upside down – but in a way no one ever could have imagined. All of the facets of this story are presented within the context of a nation battling an onslaught of destructive local, national and global forces.

Yesterday’s Part 2 took a somber look at the failed moral condition of a Caribbean paradise.

Read Part 1, “The black George Bailey.”

AMBERGRIS CAYE, Belize – The Miss World Pageant is no small undertaking. There are over 2 billion viewers worldwide. Revlon is watching for what might be the next Halle Berry. As such, Miss World is clearly a grand stage befitting a true-life Cinderella story.

And the name of Cinderella in this case is Karen Russell.

In an exclusive interview with WorldNetDaily, Russell, an unassuming, almost shy, black Belizean woman, talked freely about her humble roots and how she became Miss Belize. But that title was only the stepping stone for a far greater title and what can only be called the adventure of a lifetime.

“I used to work in Belize City at a gas station,” she said softly while sitting on a pier overlooking the jade-colored reef on the island of Ambergris Caye.

That was before she was “discovered” and sent off to represent Belize in the 2002 Miss World Pageant held in Nigeria. It was there that she turned the contest upside down, but in a way nobody ever could have expected. Until now, it is the greatest story never told.

Karen Russell

“I won my local pageant, Miss Belize, and, as is customary, I was to represent Belize in competing at the Miss Universe Pageant. However, my committee missed the deadline, which meant that Belize had no representation that year and I was out of luck. In fairness, my committee suggested that I compete in the Miss World Pageant. Although disappointed, my franchise holder really sold me on the idea. By competing in Miss World, I would have a greater avenue to represent my true self and have a voice for women throughout the world – not just in Belize.”

Russell continued: “So, there were girls there who’d had all kinds of plastic surgery done. And then there was me. Just look at me. I mean, look at this scar on my leg. Look at the scar on the bridge of my nose. When I was a little girl, I walked right through a plate glass door. I’m not very tall. I’m not beautiful. I’m just cute.”

Despite Russell’s humility, an objective observer might see the beauty queen as closer to gorgeous than cute.

Russell detailed the obstacles she faced at the Miss World Pageant.

“I was up against a beauty that the media has created. It tells you that you should be between 90-120lbs, 5’11”, with not so much as a scratch. It tells you that your have to be tucked, implanted, injected, lasered, tightened, etc. If that weren’t bad enough, I had to deal with the prejudice and discrimination that many African descendants deal with on a daily basis. I remember our chaperone telling myself and my roommate, Miss Guyana, that we ‘African girls’ are going to have to worry about our own hair and makeup because the cosmetologists and hair specialists are not trained to deal with our special needs. As a result, I single-handedly got Fashion Fair and Iman to come in and take care of ‘us African girls.’ That is just one of many incidents.”

Still, during her time in Nigeria, Russell was on the verge of making a huge splash on the international scene for herself and for all Belizeans. And that’s when the devil took Karen Russell into to the Sahara and showed her all the kingdoms of the world in the shape of Amina Lawal and her little baby girl, Wasila, adorned in her Hello Kitty archetype outfit.

Amina Lawal and baby girl, Wasila.

Lawal, a Nigerian woman, had made world headlines when she was accused of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death under Nigeria’s Sharia Law. Her sentence was announced on March 22, 2002, after she admitted to having had Wasila while divorced. The man she said was the baby’s father denied her claim and the charges brought against him were dropped.

“Things were getting ugly in Nigeria at that time,” Russell told WorldNetDaily. “We were being guarded by soldiers with machine guns. The heavier the security, well you know, the more the danger.”

Radical Muslims took to the streets carrying signs reading, “Down With Beauty!”

“They (the Nigerian officials) lied to us. They lied to me. They said that Amina wouldn’t be stoned,” Russell explained.

Another woman, Safiya Hussaini, who was also unwed and had a little baby, had been condemned to the same fate just before Amina’s “conviction.”

Karen and the other contestants left Nigeria just before Christmas that year in an expression of solidarity with Lawal and baby Wasila.

Lawal told her accusers: “I’ve left everything to God. I do not feel anything right now. I know God’s judgment is the best and will prevail.”

While some Muslims believed that stoning Amina would stop other Muslim women from committing adultery, her plight rallied untold millions, including many believers in Jesus Christ, to her cause. Petitions circled the world in her defense. The first petition was signed by 1.3 million people. The second by more than 5 million.

As for her views on Sharia Law, Russell said, “It’s the same as … ‘Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.’ I feel solidarity with Amina first as a woman, in our unending fight for equality, and second as a human being.”

Megan Rudholm, a tourist visiting from Washington state began to cry (twice) when she heard Russell’s story: “She put someone else ahead of herself. As for the stoning … well, who exactly is going to cast the first stone? And where was the man involved in all of this? (Wasila’s natural father).”

Asked what motivates her, Russell said that Jesus is a very important part of her life.

“It’s pretty difficult to define one’s faith in Jesus when faith in and of itself is something that is unseen. To put it simply though, I believe that there is no sunshine, rain, earth or breath without Him. It is always hard for me to listen to people who do not believe in the Bible. That is like doubting that all-powerful God, the Alpha and Omega (Beginning & End) is not powerful enough to protect the ‘word of life,’ which is mankind’s map to heaven. I have faith that the same God that created heaven and earth, rain, thunder, lightning and mankind is powerful enough to safeguard the Bible.”

Karen Russell comes across as a deep, introspective woman who understands the power a few words can have. But it is her actions that tell the full story in a way that transcends rhetoric. And her actions, morals and values are desperately needed on an island unraveling at a terrifying pace.

Escape from paradise

In spite of the moral lights gracing the island, many expats are looking to get out of Ambergris Caye. They will whisper to you, “Please don’t tell anyone … but we’re looking to leave.”

One well-educated and successful entrepreneur told WorldNetDaily: “Eventually, Ambergris will collapse upon itself.”

They cite the moral breakdown, crime, the rise of the Belize City archetype atmosphere and the high cost of living as the main reasons.

Says one expat, “Every day another barge comes with another load of cinder blocks and cement.”

Huge 18 wheel tractor-trailers were seen on the island’s small streets. Men were standing on top of the trailers with sticks holding up the telephone and electrical wires so that the semis could pass under them. The Huckleberry Finn-type raft that quaintly takes tourists and locals across the river cut is slated to be replaced by a proper bridge, which will open up the north end of the island to traffic and progress. Some residents north of the cut have bitterly fought the erection of the bridge, but it is coming along with the rest of the future.

“More development is not necessarily a good thing,” says one local expat business owner. “It could lead to more problems. … But the worst thing of all is the TV … that is where the kids copy their gang ‘heroes.’ More and more bad things are happening in the world, and the good things are happening less and less or not at all.”

Commented another tourist, “In America when I was young people aspired to greatness. Then mediocrity. Now its seems people aspire to be the lowest of the low.” That seems to be the biggest problem expats face in Belize. Many fled America to escape a culture that “became unlivable.”

Sonia Marsh is one of them. A tall and attractive woman from Denmark, she married an American lawyer and had three sons. When the family moved to Belize, Marsh said one of her sons “got a girl’s name tattooed on his thigh.”

Marsh, who works as a personal trainer, said she and her husband made their son remove the tattoo. But now she is concerned about possible hepatitis and liver problems associated with tattoos.

“We came here to escape the stress of California,” she said. “If you want a life of stress, well, then you might as well go back there.”

Dr. Michael Korpi, the former head of the Telecommunications Department at Baylor University, visited Ambergris Caye in February. He told WorldNetDaily: “My wife Deborah is very sensitive to evil. I don’t know if we could live here.”

His sentiments were echoed by Romy Saunders, an American homeopath: “As for living here long term, well … I just don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Yoram Shoshtari, who is supervising the building of a resort on Ambergris Caye, practically begged this writer not to write anything negative about the island, not even the plethora of trash and broken glass on the once pristine beaches.

“If you write the truth, they will find a way to drive you out,” he said in all seriousness.

His wife, Carice White, a redheaded Israeli who has been coming to Ambergris Caye for over a quarter of a century, was very open about the problems islanders face.

“Yes, there are problems today. But there were also problems 25 years ago,” she said.

Kay Scott, a successful wedding photographer who has lived on the island for 23 years, is not surprised.

“People come here and they stay five to seven years and then they leave,” she told WorldNetDaily.

She lamented the complete “collapse of family values. That’s it in a nutshell. There used to be a set of families here – Belizeans. And there was order. Now you have all of these different people coming and going from all over the place.”

Scott described for WorldNetDaily how a man tried to steal a woman’s purse right in front of her home. She said she’s heard three masked men broke into someone’s house for a robbery.

Cathy Williams, a maid at newly refurbished Ruby’s Hotel, told WorldNetDaily that she is concerned for the future of Belize and her two small children, “because of killings and other crimes.”

The trash and broken glass really bothers residents of Ambergris Caye who wish to protect the island’s natural beauty from man’s assault.

Says Mark, an economically displaced airline worker, “People throw garbage everywhere. But they think, ‘Oh, this is job creation. Now the San Pedro Town Board will hire more people to clean it up.'”

The pristine beach is in many areas littered with plastic and even light bulbs and broken bottles. Men with rakes from the town board struggle to keep up with the garbage thrown out by the locals, not to mention what comes floating in. There’s no garbage dump and little if any recycling. Garbage men haul away the trash in a large trailer connected to a John Deere tractor on the south part of the island.

Locals aren’t the only source of unwanted trash. In 2005, over 1 million tourists are expected to visit Belize from the cruise ships. Each one of them will pay a U.S. $7 head tax to the Belize government under a new agreement just signed with Carnival Cruise Lines.

Carnival and their close alliance with the regime of President Said Musa has raised the eyebrows of the Belizean people. Carnival has been investigated in U.S. for it’s shady operations and pleaded guilty in court to offenses resulting in a U.S. $9 million fine.

With that in mind, daily maximums and monthly and yearly minimum quotas for passengers will be established. Limits on use of the reef and archaeology sites will also be enforced. Yet the ships’ impact on San Pedro will be both huge and negligible. For one thing, many of the cruise ship passengers will be on tight budgets.

Says a waiter at Elvis’ Kitchen, perhaps the most expensive restaurant in town: “The people come in on the cruise ships and order one beer or the cheapest thing on the menu.”

Belize is being used by environmental lawyers to bring a suit centering on so-called “global warming,” which they claim is ruining the reef. Yet that may not be the reason the reef is feeling sickly these days. More likely it is from discharged wastewater (sewage) from the cruise ships.

The 5,000 passengers on a ship generate 500,000 gallons of wastewater and 50,000 gallons of sewerage per day. That sewerage unleashes nutrients for algae that kill the coral reef and marine life, which is the basis of Ambergris Caye’s economy via the diving and snorkeling industry.

“It’s kind of funny,” said Laurie, a Canadian who along with her husband, Kent, own the Blue Hole Dive Center. “[The ships] will have virtually no economic impact on San Pedro but they will have an ecological impact (on the reef).”

The 185-mile-long reef off the coast of Belize (second largest in the world next to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) was made a World Heritage site in 1996. UNESCO is expected to take up the Belize reef/global warming issue, which has been bundled with issues regarding the Himalayas and Peru, in its next high profile session. This is seen by some locals as a combination of more U.N. corruption and bogus science.

However, the jury is still out. The waters off Belize are warm, even by Caribbean standards. The reef needs to rest in water between 74 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Only if the temperature rises past that mark will it begin to “bleach” or turn white and die. In 1998, the water temperature, for a time reached 86 degrees, which created quite a stir in the nation.

‘It’s all good’

Despite the aforementioned problems, as well as the forces of progress, the island still holds on to its intimate feel. Grey Glandon, who came here for her honeymoon along with her husband, P.J. (picture the actor Brendan Frazier), once asked WorldNetDaily “if they were allowed to walk into the town” from their base at Victoria House, in the south.

Grey, all 5 foot 1 inch of her, averaged 20 points per game as a high-
school basketball senior. By the age of 25 she had degrees from the
Universities of Alabama and Georgia. Grey also taught grad school classes
and was voted homecoming queen.

Heather and Derek, a married couple originally from El Paso, Texas, and who visited Ambergris Caye last summer were thrilled with their trip.

“I didn’t even want to pack when it was time to leave,” Heather told WorldNetDaily. She laughed when recalling how a local crack addict climbed two stories up a coconut tree to get Derek and her a coconut to throw during an impromptu “Coconut Olympics.”

“I gave him 25 cents,” she said. “Even though I knew he was only going to spend it on crack anyway.”

Derek, who is tall and blond with blue eyes and abs of steel (he is a builder), walked 2 miles in 90 degree heat to help a local man at Oscar’s Gym with his camera problem. Like this writer, Derek use to work for The Battalion, the campus newspaper at Texas A&M.

The sunny outlook of the American tourists carries a certain optimism about the future and the chance that the moral fiber of the island will one day return to match its natural beauty.

Clive, another expat, recently bought the local radio station and is producing Christian programming on Lighthouse FM. He told WorldNetDaily, “It’s all the Lord’s doing.”

Megan Meyers, an art student at Seattle University who has been volunteering at an orphanage in Belize City, commented, “I just fell in love with Belize.”

A Cornell student from Mastic-Shirley, Long Island, Nora Lovell, visited Belize and remarked, “It’s so beautiful here that I cannot describe it.”

“Rachel,” a pilot who flew in Equatorial Guinea and lived there amongst embattled South African mercenaries also “fell in love with Belize” and moved to San Pedro where she was immediately hired as a pilot.

Hazel Swart, a South African who left her native country along with her husband, daughters and granddaughter, is holding onto her new base in Belize for all she’s worth. Looking back like Lot’s wife, she lamented the state of South Africa. “The rot has really begun to set in,” she said.

Swart wonders if the white South African farmers (and those displaced by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe) might one day live and farm alongside the Mennonites tilling Belize’s rich, fertile soil.

Tai is another Ambergris Caye spokesperson. She’s not Thai, but rather was named after the Olympic figure skating heroine Tai Babilonia. Tai is the spitting image of another Olympic hero, Jenny Finch of American Olympic softball gold medal and matinee-idol fame. Tai has lived on Ambergris Caye while fixing up her mother’s house. She describes herself as “a strong and independent woman” and told WorldNetDaily, “I am thinking of coming back to Belize one day and starting a business.” Tai has studied architecture, engaged in photography and worked as a tour guide in Rome.

Luis, who manages Oscar’s Gym near the river cut, pointed out of the weight room at the jade-colored reef and said, “Can you imagine a better place for a gym in the entire world?”

Grant Crimmins, a part owner of the popular nightclub Feedos, was based in Belize with the British air force in the 1980s. At that time, Crimmins worked on Harrier jets.

“I first came to Ambergris Caye in 1983,” he told WorldNetDaily. “Back then it was smaller than Caye Caulker. I took a photo and there weren’t even any buildings up on the island. I don’t think anyone wants to go back to those days.”

A paradisiacal paradox

The people living on the island, while often attractive and charming can also be terribly odd. There’s “Truman” who will bend over backwards to do the most amazing favors for you, then a while later ask you to invest U.S. $80,000 in a housing scheme – only to walk past the next day barely saying hello.

There are the astrology buffs who tend to center their dating and marrying careers around birth dates and the orbits of dead rocks floating in space.

You might turn over your apartment to a person in desperate need of a lease, only to have that person barely say thank you and then chastise you for using their given, Christian name in public.

You might find old friends who invite you to come visit and say they’ll pick you up in their golf cart in five minutes, only to be left standing in 95 degree heat for an hour until you realize they’re not coming back.

You might fly to Wichita, Kan., and back to Belize with your boss to pick up a plane, only to find upon your return that same boss just gave the pilot’s position he promised you to someone else.

Denying the daily mental siege of watching the society deteriorate before your very eyes is the hardest part of living here. Denial may be powerful, but ultimately it is spiritually polluting in the very worst sense. When does being optimistic and positive lead to being either realistic or negative? When Einstein fled Nazi Germany was he “just being too negative”? Or did he see the handwriting on the wall and act accordingly?

Like aborigines, these expatriates seem to wander off on mental walkabouts for no apparent reason. But that’s why many are in Belize in the first place. You can be a drunk (even in the morning), milk multiple sugar daddies for opulent living and to bank roll business ventures, take written bets on boxing matches from small children, smoke marijuana around little kids without thought, sleep around, pawn off your children, chase whores and act irresponsibly, and no one seems to take the slightest notice.

Like most people on this earth, they’re where they are because of who they are.

But only more so.

And so, considering all of these things, if you were to ask, “Should I visit Belize and explore Ambergris Caye?”

By all means, yes!

There are no color-coded terror alerts. If you want to come, please do so. And if you’re already here, then leave with all speed possible before the hurricanes, murderers, HIV/AIDS, Marxist class envy, matriarchal tribalism, sharks feeding under the piers, anti-white hatred (they love tourists but they don’t like foreigners whom them feel drive up prices for land, homes and businesses and make the island unaffordable for locals), white decadence, gang culture and Third World anarchy consume thee.

Yes, this is a taste of what heaven will be like. And this is a taste of what hell will be like. As Captain Bly wrote in his journal about Tahiti and the problems his men encountered there while The Bounty was moored in the South Pacific, “There was just something (decadent and evil) about the place itself. …”

As noted, wars are raging in Belize about abortion, the role of the U.N. and IMF, global warming, saving the whales (Belize has taken the side of Japan in regard to whaling rights, saying the Musa regime needs “scientific proof that the whales are truly endangered”), gay rights and Belize’s connection to the rest of the Caribbean.

Is Western civilization finished in Belize? Not completely.

Here the people are generally on the side of traditional morals. Belize is rejecting the “Privy Court” run by the UK (which often circumvents death sentences by appeal since there is no death penalty in the UK) by signing on with the Commonwealth Court of the Caribbean.

Moreover, the government of Haiti has issued a warrant for the arrest of “Father” Jean-Bertrand Aristide of necklacing fame. Aristide’s red-carpet treatment at the hands of the ANC has terrified even the most hard-core communists in the Caribbean basin. They know that evil has a face.

There are other signs of hope, however minimal.

With the help of high-technology-wielding technocrats from Sweden and the International Development Bank, all of Belize is being digitally surveyed and all legal papers for public and private land will be put into a database. This should help to reduce corruption in a land where one is sometimes unsure if a title is real and true.

The opposition United Democratic Party wants to completely reassess all of the dwellings and personal wealth in the country. This sounds frighteningly Marxist on a certain level. It would amount to an IRS audit for every single person in the country. But clearly things cannot continue the way they are. And there is at least a whiff of opposition and the chance for change. However, Belizeans wouldn’t be surprised if the UDP, despite its good intentions, ushered in more of the same mismanagement.

Also on the plus side, you can’t just hand a government official U.S. $50,000 and get a passport anymore. Those days are (thankfully) over, much to the chagrin of rich Taiwanese and Saudi Arabians.

Belize is signing on to a new Caribbean-wide agreement aimed at facilitating the mobility of skilled persons around the region. Value-added products from Belize will be processed in Guatemala and then marketed to CARICOM as Belizean products. When Belize and Guatemala are ready to cooperate, well, you know you’re living in desperate times.

The economy of Belize has reached rock bottom. It’s top development arm, the DFC, has been liquidated amid a savings and loan-type meltdown. Investor confidence is at an all-time low. There is a lack of transparency. Belize’s bond rating has been lowered time and time again. It’s like a giant Enron with palm trees. According to the IMF/World Bank types, by June of 2005 Belize will have completely exhausted its F/X reserves.

As previously mentioned, the nation’s social security fund was recently lost in a swampland boondoggle. The government responded by seeking to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60 for government employees. Clearly, that’s not the answer the people of Belize want to hear.

Like Americans, Brits, Aussies and South Africans, the people of Belize and Ambergris Caye are caught up in a cultural collapse that simply overwhelms politics. This cultural debasement is truly the storm of the century – maybe of the millennium.

For now, Belizeans have no choice but to wait out the super-storms like those that ravaged the state of Florida four times this past year in a mad game of weather roulette. Those storms could have easily made a turn for Belize. As such, it should come as no surprise that Belizeans say the names of past hurricanes with a sense of awe reserved for baseball hall of fame inductees. There are the hurricanes that destroyed so much of Belize (Hattie and Keith) and those that thankfully skated on by, (Mitch, which killed scores in Honduras, and Chantal). In preparation for the next Keith, the Louisiana National Guard is coordinating training for Belize in preparation for “mass casualties” from a future hurricane.

Veronica’s veil

There are those times when a small group of residents on Ambergris Caye come together and sit on the end of a long pier to watch the sunset, listen to the wind blow through the green and yellow palms, and finally to watch the stars emerge. And when they do this, they sometimes talk about how Maj. Brown of the RGBW started the British army jungle training by saying, “If this isn’t the greatest adventure of your life in spite of the sweat, heat, lack of sleep and survival training and other privations, then I have failed you.”

They remember Lt. Col. David Lee, a handsome man and former commander of the BATSUB (now a base any NATO nation can use) who had half of his face burned by an IRA bomb.

“I’m the handsomest bastard in all of the British army,” he would sometimes tell his charges in an effort to put them at ease.

They remember Mandi Lauderdale, the siren who turned the final episode of Belize-set “Temptation Island” into a Christian morality play that would have made Mary Magdalene proud. The New York Post reported she could have become a millionaire by posing for Penthouse, but that she flat-out refused. The very first big TV reality series was beset with fornication, adultery and betrayal. But in the end, the wickedness, sin and evil was turned to good.

As Cathy Clark sometimes says, “I believe there are angels watching over Belize.”

Veronica and her veil.

When the church bells ring this Christmas Eve and Dr. Jackson gathers the faithful to play a very special Christmas concert for those attending midnight mass, remember Sitka, who rescued Floyd from the sinking Sea Ranger. Remember the kind and yes, even heroic, deeds of Miriam and Tom. And don’t forget Mandi Lauderdale, Maj. Brown and Lt. Col. David Lee. These are some of the very best people on this or any planet.

Editor’s note: Writer LoBaido offers this personal, poignant addendum to his series on Belize.

Saint Veronica has a special holiday secret to tell you from her vantage point – the final resting place on the Road to Calvary. If you listen closely while deep in prayer she’ll tell you the most important piece of this jigsaw puzzle. It is something akin to the year they canceled Christmas.

You see, in 2002 there was no Miss World winner. Yet in one of those precious jewels of journalism, with a little fact checking through this writer’s contacts in Africa, I learned that there was, however, a pre-judging. And of all the girls in all the countries of the world, only one could have been pre-judged No. 1.

And that woman’s name was Karen Russell – the girl from the gas station with the scars. The same woman the people of Ambergris Caye often see walking down the street, smiling and greeting its citizens as if she were just an ordinary girl, when she is anything but.

It’s true. In spite of being voted No. 1 by the judges in the pre-judging phase of the competition, Russell left the pageant anyway – all for the sake of two strangers named Amina Lawal and her little baby, Wasila.

There will be no Revlon commercial for Karen Russell. She won’t become “the next Halle Berry.” Yet she has become so much more. Karen Russell has become the pride of all Belize.

Says Dr. Jackson: “She certainly is Miss World, both inside and out.”

Asked what she said to the judges when they interviewed her, Russell, echoing that memorable parole scene with Morgan Freeman in “The Shawshank Redemption,” told WorldNetDaily, “In the pre-judging session the judges asked what I wanted to represent and why I believed they should choose me to become the next Miss World. My response was: ‘When I was a little girl, it was a tradition for my mother, sister and I to watch the Miss Universe pageant. I was in a life-threatening accident at the age of 9, and I felt far from perfect with my numerous scars. I would watch these women and think how perfect they were and was convinced that I could never vie for a title like that because I felt my scars made me imperfect. That is why I want to represent “possibility” so that all women can relate to me, both the seemingly and unseemingly perfect.'”

Russell added that she told the judges: “‘I cannot stand here and tell you why you should choose me. I’m not going to say choose me because I’m unique or better than someone else. The truth is that you all know what you’re looking for and, if you see that in me, great. …'”

In regard to what she considers to be “truly beautiful,” Russell said, “I believe that true beauty is born through happiness and contentment. These factors create a glow that radiates outside for all to see. It is why some people have presence and others are lost in the crowd. Beauty is not something temporary either; it is everlasting. It is someone who possesses virtues that never fade. Virtues like empathy, love, kindness. Sure it is easy to be deceived by those with false beauty but people learn quickly, and soon one’s true selves are revealed.”

On Dec. 3, this writer went to lift weights at the gym, and then walked all the way from Caribe Island back to town (about 5 miles). While en route back to San Pedro someone called out from the dusty streets, “Anthony!”

It was Karen Russell, flashing that million-dollar smile – the smile of a
woman who knows that somehow great things are always just around the corner.

It is the goodness of Karen Russell that drives one to think about all of the positive and the negative on the island, in Belize, the Caribbean and the rest of the world. It all somehow co-exists close together as if one can’t function without the other.

The true beauty of Karen Russell leads one to think of Veronica’s veil being hoisted up the rigging of a giant ship as a sail, where our souls, like white doves, can fly into the light of God’s love for all eternity. For no matter what each of us may have done wrong, we are all only one decision away from wiping our faces with that veil. Our tears will lead to regeneration and reveal our true selves, so that we may become the people the Lord has always intended for us to be – beyond our sins. This is the ultimate hurricane insurance. It is the only insurance.

Many readers will be meditating upon the meaning of the Nativity and the Holy Family on this special day. Perhaps in a quiet moment, away from the lights, shopping, turkey dinner and other hustle and bustle, your mind might hear the sweet melody of Amina singing an African lullaby to her baby this (sunny or snowy) Christmas Eve. This lullaby was first sung just before Christmas 2002 by Karen Russell, “The Little Drummer Girl.”

I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor girl too
Pa rum pum pum pum

And perhaps somehow on this night, little Wasila will dream of Karen Russell sitting on a pier on the most beautiful island in all the world and know that Karen is also thinking of her. Perhaps Wasila will dream on even further, and see a nurse working her magic with the plastic wrap. Maybe Wasila will envision the injured U.S. soldiers at the Burn Unit of the Brooke Army Hospital opening Christmas presents sent by kind strangers. Indeed, it’s possible that Wasila will dream of Mandi Lauderdale and Dr. Crawford and hear the voice of an angel saying, “They are the light, just as you are the light, Wasila.”

Baby Wasila will dream of all these things and many more. Why? Because on Christmas 2004, there is no other story quite like this one. After all of the time and effort (years, actually) I still can’t say for sure that this is the best Christmas story. But I know that my beloved and late parents are looking down at Dr. Jackson, Karen Russell, Amina and Wasila knowing for sure that it’s the right Christmas story.

And so this is the message of Saint Veronica. The moral tale baby Wasila will read one day and perhaps even come to cherish as a 21st century Christmas classic.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

But not just someday …

Every day.

Take it from the man sitting in Row 14, Seat 1.

[Editor’s note: After the pageant abandoned Nigeria for the UK, Miss Turkey was crowned Miss World.]

Read Part 1, “The black George Bailey.”

Read Part 2, “Island of shattered dreams?”

Related columns:

“Carina,” highlighting LoBaido’s life story

“Our Name is Legion,” a synopsis of LoBaido’s new novel

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