Thursday, February 04, 2010

offense, not defense...

On January 12, 2010 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Caribbean country of Haiti, leaving catastrophic destruction in it's path. The capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas have been reduced to piles of concrete rubble, with an estimated 100,000 people dead. The estimated 3million people that were affected by the earthquake and the subsequent aftershocks have been left in complete devastation. While they mourn the loss of loved ones, there is the uncertainty of where, or if, the basic needs for survival will be available to them. Their lives are now in the hands of strangers. Their survival lies in the generosity of their 'neighbors'.

And neighbors have stepped up and shown the Haitian people love and generosity. 57 million dollars was raised by the telethon organized by George Clooney. The proceeds from the remake of 'We are the World' will go to help Haiti rebuild. President Obama said the U.S. government would "stand ready to assist the people of Haiti. Former President Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, said the world body was ""committed to do whatever we can to assist the people of Haiti in their relief, rebuilding and recovery efforts. Organizations, schools, and businesses throughout the world are gathering supplies and donations to do all that can be done to aid in the support of Haiti.

And while I completely agree with supporting the efforts of recovery in Haiti, my question is why did it take a catastrophe for the world to step up and 'help'? As one of poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has always had needs. Haiti is one of the most densely populated and least developed countries in the Western Hemisphere. 80% of it's residents live in poverty. The need was there before January 12, 2010! The living conditions of the Haitians were substandard before the walls collapsed around them. And now, with the tears of the loved ones of the 100,000 killed spilling onto the rubble, the world has stood up and taken notice. We have reacted.

But why does it take a catastrophe for the hearts of people to feel the hurt of others? Why do we react to a dilemma rather than plan to avoid. If 57 million dollars could be raised to help with the recovery of Haiti after the earthquake, than why couldn't 57 million dollars have been raised to improve the substandard conditions before lives were loss and families were heartbroken? If we can send provisions to defend against further loss after the devastation, then why can't provisions be collected and sent to offset and prevent the devastation? Why is our sense of 'neighborly love' only affected when our neighbor is in need?

As we see the horrific images of the destruction and loss in Haiti, certainly let your hearts be pierced with sadness. But as the news reports about Haiti are replaced by new dilemmas and the outcry for help from celebrities fades away, let us remember that the needs are still there. Let us not wait for a calamity to occur to help. Let our hearts be open to the needs of others in times of calm as well as times of turmoil. Let us help those less fortunate than us to be prepared for life's calamities, rather than only aiding them as they are forced to react after life's calamities.

Let us love our neighbors as ourselves---in times of rejoicing... and in times of sorrow.