“What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” — Elvis Costello
I find myself struggling to hold back the tears while going about my evening routine, the TV on in the background, Anderson Cooper’s miffed, surprisingly flat, often emotional tone, for the third night in a row, describing the unfathomable sadness of lives lost and families fractured as a result of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. I cannot remember even the Katrina coverage being this somber, this shocking, this hopeless.
No doubt there is devastation and suffering taking place in this world at any given moment. The situation in Haiti is not any better, nor any worse. What is resonating with me is the sense of compassion the world is clearly demonstrating, which has the feel of something very powerful.
This compassion is strongly evidenced by our volunteers and journalists, walking amidst corpses and flanked by tremendous loss and pain. The journalists are not simply reporting this story, they have become part of it. They work alongside anguished family members, desperately trying to dig out a daughter, an aunt, a brother, from under piles of rocks or a part of a building precipitously close to collapsing. At the request of an inconsolable father, they lift a plastic make-shift shroud off a dead little girl for the world to bear witness to the catastrophe that has befallen their community, extinguished the bright light of a child and left a family to attempt to grieve amidst a perilous situation where their own survival will take every ounce of their ability to cope.
The whole world is watching Haiti right now it feels to me, with a profound sense of empathy and compassion which we haven’t exhibited in such a collective way before. Certainly the level of catastrophe and hopelessness warrants these feelings, but maybe in the fall-out of this disaster, we can, as a people, recover a sense of grace and humanity that we’ve lost along the way.
If there is anything to be gained from this devastation, perhaps it is to recognize that the excruciating agony of a mother having to bury her daughter in someone else’s grave, with no service, no goodbye, no dignity, is our excruciating agony, too. This is our daughter, too. This is our family, too. This is our loss, too. If this devastation in Haiti can remind us of the precious humanity which connects us all to each other, whether in Afghanistan, Haiti, or here in Los Angeles – that we are all sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, daughters and sons – members of one family – perhaps that will help to encourage a unified spirit, a more-peaceful and respectful co-existence and ultimately, a healthier planet.