Haiti and Helplessness

I found out about the earthquake in Haiti the morning after it happened. I saw something online about praying or giving to Haiti the night before, but that is not unusual for me, so I did not think about it. Then my mother called wanting to know whether I had information on a friend who was there. I checked Facebook and informed my mother that the friend was apparently fine as people were posting “I am so glad that you’re okay!”s. I did not ask my mother about any of the other people we know in Haiti, because if she had had information she would have given it to me.

After talking with my mother I went back to my job-hunting and Haiti-ignoring. But soon it was impossible to ignore. It seemed that everyone was overcome with horror and trying to do something to help. I could not help but wonder why. I do not have a television and my brain cannot process the difference between the “normal” level of suffering and unnecessary death in Haiti and that which is happening now. I tried to figure out why I was blocking the information. Why was I not caring?

The answer was obvious: I cannot handle it. I have a special Haiti-shaped blinders to keep information away from from me (I also have African filters, a South Asian firewall, etc.). There is nothing that I can do, and so I try to avoid thinking about it.

I finally broke down this morning and rambled on and on to Josh about how there are always children dying in Haiti because they do not have access to basic medical care and how my friend could give her life to take care of them, but I cannot even get a job to give money, let alone get through school to help personally. There is nothing that I can do. It is immensely frustrating because I know that I could help… except that I cannot. In the past I could use things like this as motivation to work harder, but there is nothing to do that I am not already doing.

My only comfort is that others are immersed in images of the tragedy and are giving. And a year from now I will still care about the daily reality of Haitians and maybe, just maybe, I will be closer to being able to do something.

But I cannot really convince myself that it is okay, and so I try to distract myself from the reality of my inability to help. I do not wait and hope, I put my head in the sand and hope.

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7 thoughts on “Haiti and Helplessness

  1. Molly

    do not kick your self over this. I myself had a Indonesia filter during the tsunami in 2007 and right now I can’t do anything expect hope and pray myself. I can’t even support the charities I advertise until the end of the month at the earliest, but my hope in doing so I hope someone else who can will. The sad thing is that there is nothing any of us can really do right now and some times we need those blinders to go about our lives so that when we can help we will.

  2. Sarah

    I feel the *exact* same way. I ignored it until Wednesday, when I was at the gym and the news was in front of me on the treadmill, and I had no where else to look. Then I started crying like an idiot (who cries at the gym?!)

    One of the things I learned for sure in completing an MA in “social justice” is that unless one renounces their privilege completely (and some do!) you will always have to co-exist with guilt and feeling helpless. I’d like to think it’s the devil’s way of keeping us from action. I need to get better at not falling into that trap, too.

  3. Kristy

    It frustrates me to no end, too. I’ve donated what I can to one of my favourite charities (who was already working in Haiti), as well as a Christian organization in Jacmel; but the fact that I can’t physically DO anything to help makes me ache. I have to distract myself for a few hours at a time because there is only so much I can take, but I cry reading news articles about it. I’m getting weepy now just thinking about it. But reading the articles and seeing updates on twitter remind me of what’s going on, and that reminds me to pray.

  4. Trena

    Even though you can’t financially do anything, you can fast and pray. And really, prayers are more powerful. Because through your prayers, maybe more people will provide the money that is needed to get them through this dark time.

  5. Christy

    I tend to wear blinders as well. I, like you, cannot do anything but pray for relief. And so I tend to forget about it until I am praying. Or the priest brings it up in mass…. which has happened every day since. But that is ok, because I’m a prayerful state of mind anyway.

  6. Pingback: I am thankful 11/28/2010

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