26 July, 2010

Sitting in the sadness

I was on a tram today and picked up my copy of 'The Catholic Worker' to pass some time. The time didn't pass. The time stopped, and I found myself overwhelmed with sadness. Read this reflection by Bill Quigley on Haiti

"Hundreds of thousands of people are living and sleeping on the ground in Port au Prince. Many have no homes, their homes destroyed by the earthquake. I am sleeping on the ground as well - surrounded by nurses, doctors and humanitarian workers who sleep on the ground every night. The buildings that are not on the ground have big cracks in them and fallen sections so no one should be sleeping inside.

There are sheet cities everywhere. Not tent cities. Sheet cities. Old people and babies and everyone else under sheets held up by ropes hooked onto branches pounded into the ground.

With the rainy season approaching, one of the emergency needs of Haitians is to get tents. I have seen hundreds of little red topped Coleman pup tents among the sheet shelters. There are tents in every space, from soccer fields and parks to actually in the streets. There is a field with dozens of majestic beige tents from Qatar marked Islamic Relief. But real tents are outnumbered by sheet shelters by a ratio of 100 to 1.

Rescues continue but the real emergency remains food, water, healthcare and shelter for millions.

Though helicopters thunder through the skies, actual relief of food and water and shelter remains mimimal to non-existent in most neighborhoods.

Haitians are helping Haitians. Young men have organized into teams to guard communities of homeless families. Women care for their own children as well as others now orphaned. Tens of thousands are missing and presumed dead.

The scenes of destruction boggle the mind. The scenes of homeless families, overwhelmingly little children, crush the heart.

But hope remains. Haitians say and pray that God must have a plan. Maybe Haiti will be rebuilt in a way that allows all Haitians to participate and have a chance at a dignified life with a home, a school, and a job.

One young Haitian man said, "One good sign is the solidarity of the world. Muslim doctors, Jewish doctors, Christian doctors all come to help us. We see children in Gaza collecting toys for Haitian children. It looks very bad right now, but this is a big opportunity for the world and Haiti to change and do good together." "
(written in January, 2010)

As social justice advocates, we press on and fight and educate and help out. We know there is injustice and brokenness in the world. That's why we sacrifice and persist. But every now and again, you read something that causes you to sit in the sadness. My heart breaks when I think of the despair people go through throughout our world. And I look around me and I am surrounded by wealth and opportunity. Wealth chokes our nation. We have no idea how much is enough and rather than resting in satisfaction, we continue to strive for more and more and more. We demand a tightening of our borders for fear our resources will dry up, without considering those we shut out or 'turn around'. We accumulate wealth for our own protection and think little of the protection of others.

Can you argue against these generalisations about wealthy developed nations and their citizens? Of course! But just for a moment, let's sit in the sadness, let down our defensive guards, and intercede for our Haitian friends in prayer. Let us honestly ask God what we can relinquish, and in great humility, ask how we can be a part of God's will for earth.

Oh, and I encourage you to check out The Catholic Worker newspaper. You have to subscribe, but it is only 30 cents! (though you can of course give more!) http://www.catholicworker.org/help/faq.cfm#1

So that is Eureka Street and The Catholic Worker...what can I say...those Catholics know how to do justice!


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