Saturday, January 16, 2010


How do you go about normal life in a week that tens of thousands of people die in a natural disaster?

Is it OK to care about the routine things of life -- even from quite a distance? Is it OK to do fun things when you know so many are still suffering?

For Busted Halo's Mirlande Jeanlouis, a New Yorker with family members in Haiti, this is not an abstract query. Here is part of her personal reflection:

... Somehow, I am supposed to be living life as if someone I know is not sleeping on the street petrified of being in a building. I don’t know how to do that.

Is it possible to be positive with such uncertainty? In my 24 years of life I have had an abundance of control over what happens. If I studied hard, I got good grades. If I worked, I got better pay or a promotion. If I gave someone respect, usually respect was given to me in return. Powerlessness is not a feeling I am used to. There are no guarantees here and I am trying to maintain hope while being inundated with video footage of bleary-eyed Haitians wandering the streets of their capital.

Part of me is angry because building codes have never been a priority there. In fact, the Haitian people are used to looking outward to other nations for aid with the basics: education, water, even compassion. My anger feels like the only legitimate emotion I have. Until I have confirmation of how many family members are dead, my anger makes more sense than my sadness.

Beyond my own family members I am also hurt that people who wanted to help Haiti before the earthquake, are also buried under rubble. I’m an optimistic person but I am trying to grapple with the idea that my family’s other home has lost what little it had. Perhaps I should pray for them all, but will prayer give these people water? Will it free them from the wreckage many are still trapped under? Will it help me make any sense of a tragedy that has left my family and me unsure of exactly how we should feel and what exactly we should do?

Hat-tip: Mike

No comments: