I wasn’t planning on writing anything on my blog about the one year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake–I figure today is the one day when everyone else will be talking about it, and I don’t think there’s much I can add that I haven’t already shared with readers prior to today, and what every news broadcast is already doing. But I came across a blog entry of a good friend, so I wanted to share some of that with you guys. I’m only sharing a part here, but I recommend reading the whole thing. Here’s the excerpt that got me:
“First, I ask you to take a moment of silence with the rest of the world at 4:53 eastern (2153 GMT) to remember the approximate quarter of million people who died in the disaster. But please go further than that. One moment of silent prayer or reflection is not enough for a disaster this large. It demands several moments.
So please also take a moment when you walk into your house. Remember those Haitians (about 1 million) still without a house.
Take a moment when you turn on your tap and water instantly appears. Remember those Haitians who must carry their water miles to and from clean water sources.
When you flush your toilet, remember those who are still using pit toilets, or having to flush only once a day to conserve water.
As you prepare to come back to school, or go to work, imagine your life totally upended. Family members no longer here, plans scrapped. That is reality for millions of Haitians.”
This is something that was really difficult to deal with when I first returned from my trip, and something I know is constantly on mine and Abby’s mind. How can we not feel guilty about everything we have, when people around the world have so little? How is this fair?
I’m not five years old anymore, so I don’t need my mom to tell me that life isn’t fair…I know it isn’t…but I don’t know why is has to be SO unfair (ok, maybe I’m still five). I think about how much water we use just to shower or wash our hands…and people in Africa don’t even have enough water to drink. It’s crazy, right? (or is it just me…?)
I came across an interesting passage in a book I just finished, called The Blue Sweater, by Jacqueline Novogratz. Novogratz is talking about celebrating the wrap up of a big project in Rwanda, and standing in line at a local store with two bottles of champagne. While in line it hit her that these two bottles cost more than most Rwandans made in a whole year–she was embarrassed when it came time for the Rwandan store clerk to ring her up. In the end, her companion convinced her to buy them: ” ‘I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense on one level. We’re working with the really poor, and you and I couldn’t be more privileged in relative terms. But don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. If you were at home, you’d celebrate with champagne. If you want to remain happy and alive in this work, you need to reconcile this part of who you are and understand the inconsistencies with the work you do and how it all fits into your whole way of being.’ ” (page 115).
The whole “don’t pretend to be someone you’re not” is pretty intense, and true. We have been born into privilege, maybe not rich-trust-fund kind of privilege, but we have abundant resources nonetheless. We can’t deny that, and we shouldn’t. As Novogratz puts it: “The challenge wasn’t whether to buy a couple of bottles of champagne; it was instead not to take our privilege for granted and to use it in a way that served the world and our highest purpose” (116, emphasis added).
So today, take a minute to reflect. How can you use your privileges to serve the highest purpose?