January 30, 2010

What More Can I Do for Haiti?

When I was a child I prayed the prayers of a child. I would kneel down in the white, Greek-revival Victorian cathedral in my hometown and think, "God, please help the poor people, especially the children who have no parents to take care of them." In my mind's eye I would picture the swollen bellied children with flies buzzing 'round their heads that I saw in the reel-to-reel films every Wednesday during the season of Lent in my school. These children broke my heart until other prayers took precedence ie; "God please give my parents more money, and please bless my friends. Oh, and I would really like to be a ballet dancer when I grow up..."

When I was getting to the age when my mom thought I could reasonably begin to understand the concept of Christian charity, she began to say many things which would stick with me as I grew up. One of these gems was the phrase, "Offer it up". It took years before I understood the meaning of this mysterious maxim, and until I did understand it, it irritated me to no end.

I could never comprehend what possible use it would be to offer up my miserable little trials to God. What could He want with them? In my literal, immature mind I could see myself throwing my difficulties (like being one of only three in my class NOT invited to Jennifer's party) up in the air where they turned into dust and landed who knows where. To me it was a pointless exercise. I wanted tangible solutions, revenge, gratification, the downfall of my classmates. Most of all I wanted my mom to feel as sorry for me as I did myself.

Mom may have known of my incredulity at the time, or she may have had incredible faith in my powers of perception. Most likely she sent out these three little words knowing with hope that somehow, some way, I and my brothers and sisters, would eventually apprehend their meaning and make use of them in our lives. That a person could use her trials to better the lives of others was a concept I was slow to grasp, but when I finally did the meaning became profound to me. To pull oneself away from one's misery, to take that misery and release it is an incredibly liberating experience. It's not a giving up of a material possession, but of a possission we tend to hold onto, and one that can drag us down. As I grew up I began to see that to offer up my difficulties was a skill worth seeking because it not only had the potential to benefit others, but also benefitted me in the act of giving.

I can think of one example that may serve to illustrate my point, however poorly. About ten years ago, when I had started running again - I say 'again' because I did a fair amount of running in my childhood and teen years - my widowed brother's second marriage was falling apart, and I was taking it very hard. I remember the course I ran was a hilly one and there was one hill in particular which was almost impossible to get to the top of without stopping to walk. I remember telling myself that if I could push myself to make it to the top of the hill without stopping, maybe my brother and his wife could make it over the impasse in their relationship. I suppose I thought my offering, no matter how silly it sounds, might count for something, might help, since there was nothing else I could do to remedy the situation. As it turns out my brother's marriage was beyond repair and he and his wife separated; despite this, however, I never thought of my efforts as pointless, because I had come to believe that no prayer, no offering of the self was ever wasted, especially when it helps us reach the top of whatever hill we are attempting to conquer in our own lives.

So how does this relate to Haiti? My children, my husband and I have given all we can financially afford to give, for now, to the recovery efforts. I cannot go to Haiti to physically lend a hand, nor can I find the energy to do any fundraising when I have an arts project to begin fundraising for this month. What I can do, is to continue living simply - buying and consuming only what I need; I can try my hardest to put all my challenges in the proper perspective, and I can dedicate myself to fully appreciating all the good things, like running, walking, and the ability to give of my time, that I enjoy due to good health and a loving group of family and friends. It puts me in mind of another phrase heard in school: 'living in solidarity', and it is my prayer, my offering, my ongoing act of charity. I owe it to the people of Haiti and to all vulnerable people in this world of ours.


  1. What I do, and have done for the last number of years is to divide what I give into two. One for those in Ireland, the rest between disaster and for the development in Malawi.
    I have stopped giving in emergencies unless a call goes out from MSF who get a bit every month, largely as in this last ten years or so I've discovered that too many good givers in an area are downright dangerous.
    With Malawi, it is to a micro-bank, much like our Credit Unions. But this leaves my bank every month.
    I stopped many years age giving via church organisations. This is a personal preference, and not based on anything bad. But for me they tend even without knowing to espouse an agenda that I hold to be dangerous.
    On Haiti, I think that what is being talked about will not happen. In three months time it will be largely forgotten, so any promises give should be taken with a grain of salt.
    Oh, I'm a believer in 'paying it on'. It is a bad way of putting what is essentially remembering that anything you have comes from the good of others.

  2. I like the phrases, "offer it up" and "living in solidarity." These ring true for me, even though I've not heard it put this way. I am finding the calls for help for Haiti do keep tugging at me, though I have already given as generously as I can...but then I keep plaguing myself with thoughts like, really? have you really given all you can?...but there is no end once you go down that road. I like how you've thought it through and how living simply and appreciatively is also a way to give back to a world in need. Lovely post, which is also a way you are giving to the world.

  3. What a lovely post. I can add nothing more intelligent than you've said yourself. Thanks.

  4. This kidnap thing is a bit odd. Where the Yanks were accused of removing kids into the Dominican Republic. We are getting very bad info on this from TV news. Is it as vague on your side ?.

  5. Hello! Thanks so much for reading this post, and commenting.

    Vince: We all must give in a way that answers our conscience, right? The micro-loan system seems to be working very well for people in developing nations, and they do pay them back, because they can, thanks to people like you getting them started on an honourable,fulfilling way to make a living. I only heard about the kidnapping thing yesterday, but will try to glean what I can from CBC radio, which is generally pretty reliable. I'll let you know.

    Barbara: I read your comments before I went to bed and I was so delighted you could relate to my post. It's not easy to put a heart full of feelings into words, but I must keep trying - it seems to be my lot in life. Thank you so much for all you said.

    Kate: Thank you. xo

  6. I just saw a story on the kids. Several actually have parents and a large number of living relatives that gave them to the missionaries because they were promised they'd be given an education and a better life.

  7. There is something very uplifting and enlarging about the concept of sacrifice which I think is the concept you are referring to. In my church it is often described as giving up something good for something better.

  8. Jen: I think we saw a similar story here. I've been listening for more info but have yet to hear any. I do think children should stay with their families and culture if at all possible, though.

    Diane: Thank you for your thoughts. "uplifting and enlarging" is a good way of putting it!

  9. What an enlightening post. I too remember all those offerings of "If I do this, then that will happen" which usually didn't work out. I'm inspired by your post to sit back and appreciate the little things that are so easily taken for granted. Complaining about my lost luggage in Maui of all places sounds so childish (but makes for good blogging Lol)

    Thanks for your post.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!