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Lest we forget: Haiti

Map of Haiti

Image via Wikipedia

Today marks the one year anniversary of the destructive earthquake that shattered Haiti and what used to be Port-au-Prince.  An estimated 250,000 people were killed, and still more die daily as the earthquake’s deadly scythe continues its rampage on residents now in the form of cholera.

I didn’t know much about Haiti before this disaster, except to gaze longingly at its lucky geographical position amongst other Caribbean Islands on globes, ignorant of the poverty that gripped this small nation.  I no longer see its position on earth as lucky.

I have been learning more about the daily battle for survival still being waged in Haiti from Kathy McCullough, who is in a much better place to report on this since she has moved to Haiti with her partner to help relief efforts.  With 95 percent of the rubble remaining in the streets from that day one year ago, it’s difficult to imagine that this formerly beautiful island will return to normal in our lifetime, the atrocities its residents still face inconceivable to many of us in our cushy western lives.

Kathy asked bloggers to write about Haiti today, so we will all remember that Haitians are still struggling to overcome the most basic of human needs, like access to clean water, a year after this monstrous tragedy.  Yet I thought about the tragic circumstances facing Haitians for about 10 of last year’s 365 days; I am hardly qualified.

There are some people who uproot their lives in order to help people in the face of such disasters, like Kathy, and then there are people like me, who cluck their tongues at the horrific images we see on television but then go merrily along our way and jump into our monstrous SUV’s brimming with fuel and truck off to fully stocked grocery stores and complain about the rising price of milk.  How can we inhabit the same earth?  How is it possible for members of the same species to react so drastically differently?

There is a lot of room for improvement in my actions or lack thereof.  It may not be feasible to move my family to Haiti, but there is a lot I can do from where I sit: send much needed funds to this impoverished island, remember compassionately the plight of Haitians not only today but for the foreseeable future, and applaud and thank the most courageous of volunteers who have altered their life’s course to help Haiti reconstruct.

And there is one more important life lesson to be learned from this devastated nation.  As blogger Tori Nelson points out today in her post on the dismal state of world affairs: “But, everyday, a lot of us choose to do the next right thing, and with that next right thing we swat a little hate away from our face. We make a declaration that we are alive on this earth and (for better or worse) life is something to be grateful for!”

I won’t be as quick to complain about the price of milk today, or the few centimeters of slush on the ground, or the pain in my knee out of respect for those battling real demons far away in the Caribbean.  My challenge is to retain that gratitude throughout this year, and think of Haiti for more than a fleeting week.

The spotlight lands quite rightly on Haiti today, I am praying for its resilient residents, for the woman who houses a family of fourteen children in a tent the size of my bathroom tonight, for the woman who is trying to silence her crying baby in the dark while the floor turns to mud beneath her feet.  I am eternally humbled by the courageous volunteers who are trying to make a difference with their presence, like Kathy – thank you for your humanity.  Hopefully the rest of us, more comfortably ensconced, will be inspired by their work to ask ourselves how we can make a difference, however small, in this world.

Let’s not forget Haiti in their time of greatest need.

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