Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comfort & Joy Division

I’m hanging out in the big dome room of my farm, listening to Joy Division and talking to a new Twitter friend about his day. He thanked me for my efforts to get help to his family in Haiti. His uncle is still buried under rubble, but they think he is alive. I feel a warm wave of pride, followed closely by a crushing sense of shame…what the hell did I do? I tweeted. I sent emails. I did stuff of Facebook. I donated. I asked others to donate. So little, in the face of so much.

I am overtaken by gloom; this is why I shouldn’t listen to Joy Division.

It feels wrong to go about my day. Everything I do feels acutely, embarrassingly, wrapped in privilege. I don’t feel well, so Urban brings dinner home; I think of people in Jacmel, traumatized and hungry, wondering when they will eat next. I wrestle yet another mangled rabbit away from the dogs and feel sick at the sight of the broken body. I take a painkiller and feel anxious about my surgery on Thursday; I think of people in Port au Prince sitting on the sidewalk waiting to have crushed limbs amputated.  Suddenly, I can’t take Ian Curtis moaning at me anymore, and shut off the music. I light my altar and think of the NYT article quoting a man holding his bleeding girlfriend in his arms and saying “Bless us, oh Lord, but please send a doctor to plug the hole in my beloved’s head.”

As I watch the candles flicker, my guilt intensifies, peaks, falls away. I feel something else. An emptiness and peace, a thankfulness for my comfort, for the universal ritual of light. I feel empathy—wait, it’s not what you think. I feel empathy for myself. I realize that I can only find myself where I am; I can only live the life I am given. I’m not in Haiti. I can’t trade my comfort for another’s suffering. I’ve given what I can and I’ll keep giving, as I can. If I could share my dinner, my Darvocet, my comfy couch, they’d already be in a shipping container. If I could donate my surgeon, operating room and health insurance, I would.

All I can share is what can be given. Right now it’s a moment: my awareness and the light of Spirit. To the people of Haiti, know this: Legba of the crossroads is with you. Ganesh who overcomes obstacles is helping you. Fierce Dantor looks over you. Mother Ayizan walks among you. Ezili weeps for you. Ogun the warrior stands guard and works though the hand of the surgeon. Jesus, most gentle, is with you. Simbi moves as a river of compassion and communication, pouring the message across the world: Haiti! Haiti! Haiti!  Gede is there, immense and compassionate, taking the dead in his arms. They party with him tonight; rum and laughter flow freely beneath the Waters. You see these Spirits, these ways of being human, in the faces of the aid workers, your neighbors, family, children, yourselves. They are you, Haiti, and they are me. I am there, my brothers and sisters, in every one of you, in every way I know how.

I turn the music back on, sit in candlelight. And let it myself be what I am.


  1. i feel the same way. i keep thinking if only i could just offer my home to one family... but i can't. actually, a couple weeks before the disaster i researched adopting from haiti, but the government regulations prohibit a couple like chris and me from adopting from there. so i'm not really sure what to do. actually i haven't donated yet because i'm not sure which organization would benefit the most. what would you recommend?

  2. Sorry for the long delay! I've been recovering from surgery and am sooo behind on everything. I've heard good things about World Vision; people in Haiti say they are everywhere, and really helping.