Keep seeing Haiti


It’s Valentine’s Day 2010.

Overnight came the new release of the 25th anniversary version of Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie’s We are the World. This years rendition, recorded after the earthquake, is dedicated to the people of Haiti (Ayiti). It is powerful. Do watch it.

Back home, today’s Sunday paper had not a single word about Haiti — at least none that I could see. It is now 32 days since the earthquake, and as I anticipated, Haiti has officially been disappeared from the radar screen for most Americans, even though the task of survival will remain job one for Haitians, and the matter of long-term recovery is far in the future.

It is how it is. With the exception of 9-11-01, which is still flogged into our conscious memory at most every opportunity to keep us fearful about the enemy, the ordinary life span of a life-altering event is, roughly, a month. And a month has now passed since the earthquake.

It has been decreed that it is time to move on, or so it seems. Except for Haiti, where moving on will take lots and lots and lots of years, and continuing outside support.

This morning at Catholic Mass, the Gospel for the day was Luke 6:17, 20-26 . This text is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the meek”, etc.)

The Priest this morning, retired, a frequent visitor to our Parish, highly respected, invariably says “kindom” when the text says “kingdom,” and his error is very intentional. As he explained the story a year or two ago, on the Feast of the Three Kings: when he was pastor of an inner-city parish that had, and still has, very active ministries to the downtrodden, particularly the homeless, his assistant once typed something for him, and misspelled the word “kingdom,” leaving out the “g”, resulting in “kindom” on his piece of paper. He noted the mistake, but he liked the alternate word, and has used it instead of Kingdom ever since. So, in the Lord’s prayer, an every Sunday part of Catholic Mass, while we read and most of us say the “official” version, “thy Kingdom come,” our Priest is saying “thy kindom come”.

And so, today, we heard about the kindom of God….

Lent began on Wednesday for those so inclined. Father suggested a good opening exercise would be to read the 6th chapter of Luke in its entirety.

As he was talking, I thought of the front page of my reflections when I came back from Haiti in 2003. You can view it for yourself here.

So far, the data shows that the average American has contributed about $2 per man, woman and child to relief efforts for Haiti. Our government has supplied a bit over a dollar more per person thus far. While this is a vast outpouring of generosity for us, the vast majority of that money will simply recycle right back into the American economy through sale of goods and services, and salaries for people like the military or aid workers. Yes, we’re helping Haiti; we’re also helping ourselves, far more.

Now the time for the serious heavy lifting in Haiti begins. Maybe Lent is a good time to contemplate the meaning of another part of that Gospel of Luke read this morning: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolations. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry….” Whatever our personal circumstances, if we live in America, we’re rich.

Keep seeing Haiti, and all the other places which have less of the riches of the world than we. It’s the least we can do.