Responding to Haiti

There’s a profound generosity that kicks in during times of crisis. Our generosity doesn’t hold a candle of course to the generosity of people in the rubble who, victims themselves, climb under unsafe pieces of concrete to rescue someone else. The generosity that gives away one’s food, even opens one’s business so others can get what they need to survive. And to do so in a place where there is no insurance claim to file, no reimbursement to receive.

But though they are of a different calibration, there are many kinds of generosity being displayed. CNN is generous with its coverage of Haiti, almost shockingly so. A donor called to say “We’re making a credit card donation. We’ll have to sell something to pay the bill when it comes, but we simply must respond.”

We must participate. We know deep in our hearts that when others suffer, we must somehow share their burden. I don’t quite relate to the $10 text message fundraising, but for kids that may be a sacrificial gift; others may be texting in $10 five times a day. Huffington Post and others are shaming anyone making a buck on the crisis, like the credit card services who are now waiving their 1-3% fees on all donations to approved NGOs.

Let’s admit it: Haiti has been looked upon with disdain for decades as the basket-case of the Western Hemisphere. And sometimes it takes alot to overcome someone’s preconceived disdain. Witness the attitudes to the LA riots after Rodney King. And it’s true that on the radio tonight I heard an interviewer asking skeptical questions about graft and greed and incompetence and wealthy oligarchs and all the litany of excuses people love to use to excuse themselves from caring.

Yet this disaster has amazingly leapt over the vast majority of skepticisms and brought out the best in humanity. Has this been a wake-up call to us that Haiti has all along been Lazuras lying right at our rich-man gates? And now that the dogs went from licking his wounds to devouring him we are stirred? Truly enough, there’s something patently wrong with such levels of poverty so close to our shores. And lousy government or not, this is not the fault of the Haitian people.

Some may condemn “the idiots who built their buildings so poorly”, forgetting the reality of those who can barely afford four walls, much less earthquake retrofitting. And if anything, their home improvements would have been designed to protect against the wind and rain of frequent hurricanes, not rare earthquakes.

I find it hard to know what to do in these situations. World Vision has staff who are getting two and three hours of sleep a night. Shouldn’t I work as hard, if only in solidarity? Yet I can only read and learn and communicate so much. But I’ve discovered that I’d rather over-respond than wonder if I’ve done enough. Maybe a lot of people are making the same decision in their own way.
Cory
1/19/10

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