Catastrophe seems an inadequate word to describe Haiti right now. The news reports can only hint at the unimaginable human suffering in that still-after-shocking land.
Yesterday, a New York Times article[i] described the efforts of a teenager’s parents to rescue their son from the rubble of his school. With bare hands and a blow torch, his father at last managed to free him. And then, the article said: “His mother danced.”
His mother danced: a spark of joy in the midst of utter devastation and loss, so many other mothers and fathers weeping, or gone. The Red Cross estimates that at least 50,000 people have died. As NYTimes columnist David Brooks pointed out in his column yesterday, the same category of earthquake in San Francisco in 1989 killed 63 people. There were many more dancing mothers in California than there are in Haiti.
French novelist Leon Bloy wrote: “There are places in the heart that do not yet exist. And it is into these that suffering enters, that they may have existence.” We the human family are consistently presented with opportunities to allow our hearts to break, to crack wide open and expand our capacity for empathy, compassion, connection: to move us to respond to the suffering in our world. It’s part of how our collective brokenness will be healed.
Haiti is another heart-breaker, an invitation to each of us to wrap ourselves and our personal resources around her people in whatever way is ours to do. And to know, deeply, that the magnitude of horror there is measured not by the Richter scale, but by the quantum of global inequality and systemic injustice. Can we , will we open our hearts and hands to those who suffer in our world and let it change us? Can our current concern move us to examine our own lives and lifestyles and their impact on others, and lead us to make choices ensuring that on a planet of plenty, no country and her people are impoverished?
Imagine a world full of dancing mothers.
[i] Tensions Mount in Devastated Capital as Nations Step Up Aid Pledges to Haiti, by Marc Lacey. January 14, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/world/americas/15haiti.html?th&emc=th