I’ve read a number of opinion pieces and comments slamming the relief efforts underway for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti and I have to respectfully disagree with their viewpoints.
The basis of their argument is that there are enough needs here in America…why should we help some foreign country? Why should we divert funds, rations, and supplies to a small nation in the midst of their tragedy when we have daily tragedy happening right here at home?
I get that. I understand that. But I also think there can be no comparison.
There is a big difference between being affected by the economic downturn and being instantly crushed beneath concrete and rebar.
There is a big difference between being forced to seek assistance through unemployment, food programs, and charities, and being forced to hunt amongst the dead in search of morsels of food and suitable drinkable water.
There is a big difference between realizing your family is broke and realizing your family is dead.
I’ve read a number of commentaries where people have grown tired of seeing Haiti splashed in the headlines, dominating the news, and eliciting all kinds of attention. Rest assured, the families of the tens of thousands who were killed, maimed, or stripped of everything they owned have grown weary of the earthquake’s fallout as well.
Right now, as the detractors write from computers that equal a typical year’s pay in Haiti, there are people still trapped beneath the rubble. At this very hour, there are children wandering the streets without parents, without family members, and without a known destination.
As you read this, there are wounded people agonizing outside makeshift medical tents that are woefully understaffed and under supplied. And right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have no access to even the most basic of necessities.
As you shower in warm water, cook that can of soup, or flip on a light switch, remember that these are unfathomable luxuries to the affected. Packing what you can, sending what you can, and doing what you can to extend comfort to Haiti doesn’t mean you are ignoring the problems we face at home. It just means you’re making an effort to give a little more than you’re used to.
Throughout the year in our household, we bag up items for Goodwill, donate money to charitable organizations, give food to local pantries, and offer our time to charitable programs. No one is asking us to stop, and no one is asking us to divert our donations away from American needs and forward them on to Haiti.
We’re simply digging a little deeper in our closets. Digging a little deeper in our pantry. And digging a little deeper in our wallets.
An argument was posed saying that people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and being forced to sleep in their cars here in America, so why don’t we help them instead? Ok, good argument, point taken. But do most people help them? Or do they simply want to try and dictate where aid that they had no hand in securing should be distributed?
In truth, we as a society do try and lessen the burden for those affected by poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. There are public assistance programs, there are food bank options, and there are social outreach initiatives in place. Is it enough? No. Not so long as men, women, and children go hungry. But this doesn’t mean we should ignore the pleas of others.
Answer the following questions honestly…even if you already gave at the office.
Would you offer a bandage to the wounded even if he or she wasn’t a part of your family?
Would you take cold water to the lips of the parched even if he or she wasn’t from your community?
Would you offer comfort to a child who just lost his or her entire family even if he or she wasn’t an American?
Then why is this so different?
This isn’t a situation where a bunch of people are lined up with their greedy little hands out looking for freebies. These are people who seek the basic necessities of life so that they can return to some degree of normalcy.
If we can help alleviate their pain by boxing up some extra old clothes from our closets, plucking some extra food from our pantry, or donating a few extra dollars from our wallets, then where is the harm?
Truth be told, I’m sick of hearing about Haiti as well. Not because I feel they don’t deserve our assistance, but because I’m saddened by all the heartbreaking stories of death, despair, and hopelessness.
It will take more than prayers, condolences, and statements of sympathy to bring back what was lost. It will take time, money, and supplies, and I know that we’re going to do our part to help.
And I promise you this.
Not one American man, woman, or child will suffer as a result of our compassion.