What is it about weather that makes us point fingers at God? It would be funny, if it weren't for the intellectual consequences, one of which is that it points us away from human responsibility. This question of human responsibility has more than one angle to consider.
Angle 1: As functional country and economy, Haiti was close to black-hole status before the earthquake. The world's governments at large have let it languish. Imagine what our government might do with one tenth of the Iraq war budget channeled toward building infrastructure in Haiti, or any other of the country's monumental needs. Imagine little Haiti being a top item for discussion at a G20 meeting or a monthly headline in major Western media, earthquake notwithstanding. The "Big Guy" is NOT responsible for 21st century governments finding more important goals to achieve than helping Haiti to join that same century.
Angle 2: On the other hand, thousands of humans have dedicated time, energy, money and more to Haiti and its people. My friend Orietta adopted two children there, whom she raised to adulthood. Two staff members of the United Methodist Committee on Relief died from the injuries they suffered when the earthquake hit, the Reverend Sam Dixon, and Reverend Clinton Rabb. I did not know these men personally, but I know people who did. And I know that they represent many more people of different faiths who stepped into the mire that is Haiti to work with those living with needs that many of us cannot imagine, much less survive.
Angle 3: What about you and me? There are a lot of us with strong social consciences, squeezed schedules, and strained budgets. We cannot go to Haiti--or Iraq or Afghanistan or Darfur or the favelas of Brazil or even to our neighborhood food banks. All you have to do is watch one newscast of the hundreds being broadcast daily to understand that, as horrendous as the earthquake in Haiti is, the "etc." that comes after it is no less problematic or pressing. I feel very overwhelmed when I learn of these needs and know I cannot mount a white horse and ride out on rescue missions or write huge checks and send them, carefree, to multiple causes.
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And yet, I believe there is something else we can do. I have revisited Dr. Emoto's site hado.net. Here you will find clear, scientific proof of how we can influence and contribute to active good in the world. If you want to help "Haiti, etc.," spend some time with Words and / or Prayer. Emoto's work reminds me that when I say, "All I can do is talk, or all I can do is pray," that these are actions in themselves, not poor substitutes for the easily seen and easily recognized act of physical and fiscal assistance. This silent work may not be big, but it is profound.
Angle 4: No matter what appears in the news, no matter how globalized (watch out for nouns turned into ize-verbs!) our lives become, we still live where we live. We can still, each of us, follow the wise and practical advice of Zen master Suzuki, to shine our corner of the world. If each of us shining a corner turns into all of us shining a corner, think of how bright our world can be. If each of us does not engage in this shining, then all of us never will. We cannot wait. We are the answer.
So, in the aftermath of earthquakes and other damage, let us pause to consider the stillness in which some profound action and change can take place, as we humans do what we can to help the "Big Guy" and each other, in our daily lives in our different corners:
Let us cut crust from
bread, take the dark
edges away and give our children
sandwiches as soft as their hearts
Let us iron wrinkles from
rumpled fabric, taking care not to
force new creases in
Let us redo the hastily done –
refold the linens, roll the towels, tuck
a scent inside as grace note for
Let us take time for
smallness, for detail –
perhaps unseen – but not unfelt
Time to make right
the work half-done by other
hands and our own
Time to see Self for
what it is: small
small small and
Time to do what Self can
in small time on great earth,
great needy earth
Cut away the dark edges
Make the rough smooth
Correct for carelessness and haste
Small me Small you
Let us change
Text copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.
Poem, "Let Us," previously published in The Wisconsin Review
Images are from Bentley's Snowflakes, published by Dover.