I don’t sleep well when there is a global catastrophe. It’s as if my psyche were in silent vigil for the living and dying who are struggling to find their way within the grip of nature’s fury. Images of bodies lying in the twisted rebar or washed up on broken, angry beaches, families standing on rain-soaked rooftops, children searching solo for anything familiar: they trouble me. They flood over airwaves as I sit, comfortably and uncomfortably, transfixed before my cable news network. I don’t want to watch. I don’t want to know, but my soul does. It does not forget for a second. My ventures into social media provide distraction; Amy’s daughter lost a tooth, Jeff got a job, theatre openings/closings, and plenty of go-team-go. Then there are the postings, the pleas for $10 worth of help, which makes me feel more helpless. All I can do is send a paltry sum? Will that get the planes there faster? Will that stop the voices crying out from inside the concrete rubble? The answer is yes. And…yes. That may be all I can do from the comfort of my uncomforted zone, but deep within my sleepless psyche there is work to be done.
I am heartened by the massive funds collected click-by-ten-buck-click, enraged by the perspicacious insights of the religiously insane. Treaties with France and pacts with Satan aside, the world is harsh and cruel and that will never change. When I see the film of Haitian people, who have never had much but have lost it all, grateful to be alive to live another day in poverty, I am brought to my knees, careful not to rip my jeans. (They cost me over half the yearly wages of the average Haitian.)
The problems of Haiti are long-standing and legendary. They will not be reversed in a day, or in a generation. The road of reconstruction is long and hard, the path of re-invention, harder. Like our native sons and daughters of New Orleans, the spotlight of their plight will shift, cameras turning toward the next true or false calamity, and they will be left alone together. What is left is the opportunity to rebuild, the responsibility to recreate, and that is to be shared by all with equal measure. We can send our money and our troops; we can send our prayers and some well-meaning group will be collecting teddy bears, for that is what we’re made of.
I lose sleep hoping that our fruitful steps in times of overwhelming crisis will not melt into meaningless gestures of remembrance once the parade has passed. While we commit to fund and rebuild Haiti, let us also fund the bank account of our humanity. Let’s call on it daily, putting forth our best before disaster strikes.