Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK and Haiti

Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expedience asks the question, “Is it Politic.” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks, “Is it right?” The ultimate measure of a person is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but in moments of crisis and controversy.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have been trying really hard not to be overwhelmed by what has happened in Haiti. I was so overwhelmed by 9/11, by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, by the Tsunami in Southeast Asia a few years back. Large disasters are incomprehensible, whether manmade like the ongoing genocide in Darfur and the Middle East issues, or this most recent crack in the bones of Earth under a major population concentration in one of the poorest areas of the world. So close to the US, the poverty of Haiti is itself incomprehensible. It is difficult not to feel helpless and hopeless in the face of such large scale destruction, lack of food, water, shelter and medical care.
It has been a long time since I have seen him, but in my early adult years, I had a friend who was from Haiti and Boston. He was big and quiet, but oh what a smile and laugh. I think of him now, wonder where he is, where his extended family is, because when I knew him, many of his family were still in Haiti. I pray that they are alright, even though I haven't seen or spoken to him since probably 1990. But having known him, however long ago, personalizes this particular disaster for me in a way different from many others. As does knowing some of the students I had back around Boston over the years. There is a strong Haitian immigrant community there, as well as Dominican, which many of my former students were at one particular school. I think of them, too, and wonder why we haven't heard much about the affects in the Dominican Republic. After all, both countries are on such a small island, together.
Of course, I want to do something, but find myself no George Clooney organizing a benefit concert to raise money for the rescue and humanitarian efforts, or Sandra Bullock pulling a million out of her pocket with an attitude of whatever she can do, she will do.
Well, I can donate when the offertory is passed in my church with funds going to the Red Cross. And I can spread the word about what others are doing to help the effort.
My friend, artist and jewelry maker Kelly Warren, is donating the sales of some photography and jewelry at her Etsy shops. please click on her name, and follow what she tells you there. Her jewelry and photography are as happy and colorful as the colors of Haitian art. I think she is doing a wonderful thing to show her support for the Haitian people. I've seen other incidences of Kelly's heart of gold, but now, she is absolutely in her generous spirit.
In other ways, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Haiti, a country that historically seems unable to catch a break, but whose people have more resilience and faith in life and art and spirit than almost anywhere in the world. Let us all do what we can to help, however small it may feel. Any little bit from prayer to pocket to action makes a difference.
Christa Brelsford was one of the hot news items in the earliest reports. Her spirit of ethical responsibility and optimism in the face of losing a leg, are inspirational. Of course, she is one of the lucky ones, transported out and back home to America. I am proud to call her a fellow alumna of the college that informed my sense of personal responsibility toward the entirety of humanity. I would not be surprised to find her heading back to continue the work in adult literacy she was there to do as soon as she is able.
I opened this post with my favorite quote from the man we celebrate today, Martin Luther King, Jr. The active visionary inspired our nation to a greater good during a diffcult time in our history. I believe now is another time for us to listen to our conscience and do what we can.


  1. love that quote, cathy. and thanks so much for the link to my blog and my efforts. this one has hit really close to home, hasn't it. two of my students spent most of last summer in haiti working at one of the orphanages. they have been in tears since this happened, unable to reach anyone they worked with there.

  2. so sorry about how close it has come to you...i hope your students find who they are looking for and that they are well.

    this really reminded me of my old friend and some students i had many years ago. nothing so current as your students.

  3. what a thoughtful and poignant post - yes, we all must do what we can, and be so so thankful for the lucky lives that we lead.... and i love that quote... an amzing man.

  4. thanks, mummy mania. excellent thought as well. be grateful and hug our kids a little tighter, eh?


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