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.