Yesterday's fashion post is a fairly good example of what happens when there is too much heaviness on my mind: my brain explodes into frivolity. I am not good at holding onto sorrow or anger - which is in some ways a strength. But the flashes and spurts of my emotional life are a post for another day. During this time, I am very conscious that the ability to deal with the tragedy in Haiti in small doses, to think about it and then put it away in favor of lighter topics, is a luxury.
Many of us are feeling the pull to help somehow, which is great. The organizations on the ground in Haiti have made it easy for us to do so, by providing us with online mechanisms to donate, and lists of items that can be sent. However small our contributions, the people there can definitely use them. 54% of Haitians live on less than $1 per day; 78% make less than $2 per day, and according to these statistics (the surveys vary a bit), the gross national income per capita is $480.52. Your $10, $25, $50 donation goes a long way there. We're collecting donated items at church to assemble baby kits and hygiene kits. I have no doubt these things will be used.
I'm not sure what more I could do right now; I can't jump on a plane and hop down there right this minute, which is probably the only solution to the uselessness I feel toward this crisis. A solution to my feelings of uselessness is not necessarily a solution to the needs in Haiti. As someone with basically no medical or construction skills, I wouldn't be all that useful there, either. What I have is the ability to give a bit of money, collect donations, and keep the people of Haiti in my prayers and thoughts, which I guess I can do just as well from my cozy living room.
When I was there in 2000, I was not any more capable than I am now. I nailed a few tin sheets onto the roof of the school we were building, but aside from that, I let my teammates handle the "real" work. I held children, blew bubbles, painted fingernails, exchanged basic words in English and Kreyol, let the older girls braid my hair into cornrows (which, if you have seen my straight, fine hair, probably sounds pretty comical...and was, according to the pictures). I don't know that it was really any more useful than what I'm doing right now. The money spent on that trip could have fed people. But it felt more real to be there, to hold hands and try to work out how to communicate, to hand out shoes and t-shirts from my suitcase before I left and go home with only the clothes I was wearing.
The big question I can't really even begin to address is the "why?" I have, in the last few days, discussed a number of times the injustice of this situation, and the question of, if God exists, what on earth is God thinking, or doing? I know, according to the assumptions about clergy, I'm supposed to have answers for all of this, but I don't. And please, let us consider for a moment some of those who have thought that they do. I'll stay far away from that road, thanks. Instead, I share with you the text of a hymn that was sent to me today.
In Haiti, There is Anguish
ST. CHRISTOPHER 188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206 (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)
In Haiti, there is anguish that seems too much to bear;
A land so used to sorrow now knows even more despair.
From city streets, the cries of grief rise up to hills above;
In all the sorrow, pain and death, where are you, God of love?
A woman sifts through rubble, a man has lost his home,
A hungry, orphaned toddler sobs, for she is now alone.
Where are you, Lord, when thousands die—the rich, the poorest poor?
Were you the very first to cry for all that is no more?
O God, you love your children; you hear each lifted prayer!
May all who suffer in that land know you are present there.
In moments of compassion shown, in simple acts of grace,
May those in pain find healing balm, and know your love’s embrace.
Where are you in the anguish? Lord, may we hear anew
That anywhere your world cries out, you’re there-- and suffering, too.
And may we see, in others’ pain, the cross we’re called to bear;
Send out your church in Jesus’ name to pray, to serve, to share.
Tune: Frederick Charles Maker, 1881
Text: Text: Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Permission is given for use by those who support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
***A late addition: a reflection on the question of where God is in the midst of this tragedy, and more pictures from Port-au-Prince.