I’ve felt rather quiet the past couple days.
Being the tender heart that I am, I haven’t been able to hide from or ignore the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake earlier this week. I can’t see the faces amid the rubble and sheet-draped bodies without tearing up. This morning I donated to Doctors Without Borders‘ Haiti relief effort, and when the Red Cross site is less flooded than it was this morning, I’ll donate there, too.
I’ve heard comments that the earthquake is some form of divine punishment on Haiti. (Pat Robertson, I’m looking at you and your cohorts.) I don’t believe that’s true. It’s just unfortunately located on an active fault. The same thing could easily happen on U.S. soil. It has happened in the past. We just have more money and resources to work with in clean-up and rescue efforts.
Haiti doesn’t have the wealth of resources we in the United States have. It is the poorest country in our hemisphere according to reports, and I’m sure there are various reasons for that, not the least of which being the lack of a functional educational system (a large portion of the populace cannot read at all, or cannot read above an elementary school level), political unrest (probably partly due to the lack of education, making it easier for a few to hold power), and limited availability of basic things that we take for granted, like electricity, running water, and functional sewers.
I know some U.S. citizens will be angry seeing all the aid the U.S. is sending to Haiti when there are so many problems here in our own backyard. Everything has still not been set aright since Hurricane Katrina, for instance. There are people homeless and jobless across the country. Optimal health care is reserved for those whose companies provide them with top-notch health insurance, or who are fortunate enough to have the money to purchase it themselves, and health care-related expenses are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in this country. (I am one of the fabled “uninsured,” so I am not ignorant of that.) People here in my own backyard are still without water or electricity in isolated areas after a winter storm that hit before Christmas. (I’ll be donating to the Red Cross to benefit my state as well.) On any given day, approximately 2.6 million people, it is estimated, are trafficked into or living in modern forms of slavery: sexual slavery, sweatshops, and indentured servitude. Wars, famine, and disease run riot all over the globe. Some people in the world don’t have access to safe drinking water on a normal day.
It’s overwhelming to think about everything that needs to be fixed in the world. Sometimes it’s easy to say that to try to help is futile. Sometimes it’s easy to think that the afflicted somehow deserve their lot in life. It’s often easy to be glad it’s not us going through whatever tragedy is unfolding before our eyes. It’s difficult sometimes to let oneself empathize with fellow human beings in crisis, to frequently feel powerless and at a loss as to what to do or say. One person can’t do it all; that’s true.
I know I can’t do it all, but I can do what I’m able to do, and a little help is better than no help at all. That goes for the victims of the Haiti earthquake, the victims of natural disasters here, and all other suffering people around the world, whatever their circumstances. If everyone did what they could, instead of a lot of people not even thinking about it or trying, I wonder what it would be like in the world? To venture a guess, I think it would only get better.
Sometimes, all we’re able to do is empathize, pray, do tonglen or other such practices. Even that, I think, is a small victory over indifference or hatred. These small things I am doing, too.
So, if you’ve read this far, please consider doing what you can, where you can to make the world a better place.