In the summer of 2001 my sweet boyfriend proposed marriage to me; I said yes. He has now been my sweet husband since April of 2002. Seriously. It's like being married to the Sesame Street character Elmo. He is sweet and funny and cheerful all the time. And yes, sometimes that is irritating. I am extremely fortunate.
One day a few weeks after he proposed I went wedding dress shopping. I was 39, must trimmer than I am now. It had been a long time since I was a size 8, but I was around a size 12 then. I went into one dress shop and the tiny under 30 sales clerk, said to me, while I was getting undressed...."wow. I'm not sure we've ever had anyone your size in here." Wow indeed. I left. Without a dress and without a lot of self esteem. I had bounced back from the initial clerk who had asked quite incredulously, "you are looking for a wedding dress....like...for YOU? Not your daughter?" But this was now more than I could bear. I went back to my small apartment, phoned my fiance and informed him that I was too fat and old for him to marry, and thus, we would have to break up. He, being very much in love with me, and a Texan, said he felt like getting his gun. (OK that part is not much like Elmo.) He refrained, but his offer did sort of warm my fat little heart for a moment.
The next day I picked myself up off the couch, quit crying, started to laugh about the whole then, went to work, and the world changed forever. The next day was September 11th, 2001. Suddenly my dress woes and chubby belly woes seemed ridiculously small and insignificant. Suddenly like the rest of the world I was glued to the television news and overwhelmed with tears for days on end.
The news from Haiti, reminds me of that time. It is, of course, markedly different. Acts of nature and acts of deliberate evil are incomparable. The devastation and its aftermath are something similar, however. There is the tremendous loss of life and complete disorientation, and the coming together...even for a moment of the world community when terror strikes...whatever its source.
I was going to do a cheery little post last week about the new year. I am intrigued by a new book called "The Happiness Project", and I was going to write about that. Then the earthquake hit and all of those thoughts were discarded as so much fluff and blather. It's one of those times where everything else seems so insignificant.
Life in Haiti has been unspeakably hard long before the earthquake. And now. Now. I cannot even begin to imagine. And added to all of that horror has come a major aftershock and more suffering. The words of one of the great Psalms of lament springs to mind, "My God My God why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22). Surely words like that must be on the lips of those who struggle in such a place.
I have found myself over the years with the words of that Psalm on my lips with far less provocation.
We wait and pray and hope and lament. And I suppose that's about all most of us can do. A few are called and able to go and be hands and feet in a place so desperate for help. But for most of us we are here and it will be all that we can do to pray and send whatever money we can send. (My suggestion is Episcopal Relief and Development: http://www.er-d.org/
But of course there are dozens of great organizations accepting donations for relief in Haiti. (Be careful there are always scam artists at work!)
I would NEVER want to use the language of "good" casually in a situation like this. I would say there is something powerful that happens that brings the plight of a people to the world's attention. I do not mean in any way to suggest that such attention is the "good" that comes out of an earthquake! Though there have been some in the news who say such things. It reminds me that it's often the people with healthy children who tell grieving parents they can have other babies or people with money who say money can't buy happiness. So I don't want to say anything from my safe beautiful office like that! I will say that for me it takes this kind of shocking news to remind me, o yes, people in Haiti suffer. It takes this news to open my wallet.
I forget about Episcopal Relief and Development on "regular" days. I forget about the portions of the world where people live on less than a dollar a day. and where children starve...all the time...not only in the aftermath of a disaster. I don't know how to manage those facts differently. None of us can spend all day and night absorbed in the news. None of us can spend every moment reading about the plight of all those in the world who suffer. And if I give away every penny I have all I manage to do is join the ranks of the world's poor.
So somewhere in all of that I have to learn how to be aware, open, generous, and concerned and still live my life, find joy in daily things, love my little Elmo husband, and trust that God hears prayers even when it feels like there has been complete abandonment.
I have to keep reading Psalm 22...feel those first verses, feel that despair, acknowledge that despair, not rush through, but keep reading...until I can get to the closing verses, "My soul shall live for him (God); my descendants shall serve him (God); they shall be known as the Lord's for ever. They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done."
Thanks be to God. Rhoda