To choose to write about something today that is anything other than related to the absolute devastation that is unfolding in Haiti would read a little false and beside the point. I could easily say that I am grateful to not be there, to be safe in my intact house with running water and electricity and food, close to medical care should the need arise. I am grateful for those things, but it seems a little flip to say that the One Fabulous Thing about today is that I am not in Haiti. I don’t actually think that is the One Fabulous Thing anyway, but I’ll get back to that in a second.
Disasters of this proportion, like the Tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, always take us by surprise. Of course they do – there is no way to know when or why something like this will occur. As the years go on and the internet and social media become more integrated into our every day experiencing of the world around us, we turn there first for information when something like this happens. I went to bed last night after an evening of working from home and watching something on the DVR, unaware of what was happening in our neighboring country of Haiti.
I heard about the earthquake on the radio during my commute, and tried to figure out what sort of magnitude of a disaster this is. I turned on my computer at work, and had a wait while CNN.com loaded, a sure sign of a lot of people trying to do the same thing. I popped over to Facebook and saw a note from my cousin at the top of the feed, giving some details about the earthquake and appealing to people to help. The name of the organization she linked to is Mercy Corps, but I will caution you that the page might have trouble loading right now. Later in the day I saw Mercy Corps referenced in a list by the American Institute of Philanthropy as a high-rated nonprofit group that is assisting in relief efforts in Haiti. After that, I saw Mercy Corps as the organization that Amazon.com has linked to on its home page for direct and easy giving. Mercy, mercy.
Every news article I have read has had embedded links to organizations that you can donate to online, that will immediately and directly use those dollars to assist in saving lives and restoring order in Haiti. Because I am a cynical person by nature, I have to assume that these links are only included because people want them. News organizations want people to read their articles, and if they in their infinite market-researched wisdom think that people want to know how they can help, then people probably want to know how to help.
I remember right after the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina being able to donate money online, and I did so. It was so easy. It’s so easy now. What did people do to feel effective and not so unbelievably helpless before the internet? It is a double-edged sword, since the same channel that brings a conduit for relief also brings realtime images and stories from inside these events that stay with you for a long, long time. I claim no privilege to feel sympathy for pain and suffering due to my recent marital and parental status; but, I will say that for me, meeting my husband and having my son has made these images and stories evoke a stronger response from me. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, maybe it’s weaning hormones, maybe it’s that I immediately put the sweet face of my son on these stories and myself in the shoes of the mothers and sisters and wives that are searching for their loved ones in the rubble.
Back to the mercy. I’m not plugging one relief organization over another, since there are several that are great and worthy of your donations, but that word has stayed with me all day. The prominence of the conversations about how to help really move me, and make me hopeful that the compassion and mercy that people are sending toward Haiti right now are more reflective of the underlying nature of people than the pettiness that more often preoccupies our attention.