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Humbled by Haiti – from Helplessness to Hope

Updated on March 29, 2010

I don’t know how to feel when so many people die at once. It’s hard enough to cope with the death of one person. How can one mourn 150,000?

Helplessness. It feels helpless. And yet I’ll spend entire days feeling bad for myself, at work or school or whatever. My car needs to be fixed. Poor me. Then I’m reminded of the devastation not so far south.

None of this is really my fault. The human brain is not designed to comprehend loss on this level. It goes beyond both our logical and creative capacities. And given the ever-escalating stampede of technological advances made in recent history, it feels uncomfortable to be confronted with a situation that cannot be fixed. And even worse, we don’t have a scapegoat to blame!

I have heard several people make statements along the lines of “why are we sending all this money to Haiti? We have problems here too! We’re still fixing New Orleans.” I have not argued with these people. I’m not big on arguing. And certainly these people have a right to feel that way. But I think their point underscores my point: they can’t comprehend 150,000 people perishing in such a manner. And to approve of the aid being sent would be acknowledgment of shared humanity. If those people were human, and we’re human, then who’s to say we’re not heading for a similar fate?

It’s all very scary. Or humbling. It depends on how you look at it. I favor the Seize the Day outlook, in principle if not in action. After all, tomorrow is not a promise. 

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