Friday, January 15, 2010

More Gratitude

I am doing my best to avoid seeing pictures of the devastation in Haiti. I simply can not shake such images out of my head, and it makes me feel so hopeless to see the despair. I saw one picture of a mother, writhing in emotional pain on the ground, as she mourned the loss of her child. In that glimpse, I was she and she was I and I shared her pain and it was hard to breathe.

The other night when Tessa was drifting off to sleep, I crawled into bed with her for a quiet snuggle. We talked about our days, giggled, whispered, and I felt the warmth of her body next to mine. I held her close and every cell in my body sent out a prayer for the people of Haiti, wishing that they could experience the same comfort.

I do have things to complain about - we all do. My wrist still hurts, especially when I over-use it, and it has a combination of burning and throbbing pains. Money is still tight. I still have nightmares about cancer, and I still bear the scars and pains and fatigue. The porch still needs replacing. And we have to drink cheap wine. (That last one added for humor. Ha.)

And the people of Haiti are quite unintentionally reminding me of my massive, amazing, incredible good fortune.

I am alive. My family is alive and well. When we are sick, we get medical care, and, miracle of miracles, we heal. We turn on the tap and water comes out every time - hot and cold, and we don't have to boil it before we drink it. The cupboards are full of food, and when they run low, we go to one of a dozen nearby stores to restock them with food. My bed is comfortable. I held a party (church potluck) and 50 people came to my house, and not one complained about inadequacies - the children laughed, the adults talked.

And our home - our lovely home. Today, I'm not seeing the rotten porch and the missing fireplace (what kind of 1923 house doesn't have a fireplace?!) and the 1970s basement. No, today I don't see that at all. I am seeing warmth, light, polished hardwood floors. I'm seeing colors chosen because they give me joy and soothe me. I'm hearing the rain beat on the windows, mixed with the sounds of Mozart on the radio. I'm gazing at hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of books, chosen because they sounded interesting. My giant puppy is on the floor beside me, sleek and well fed and loyal; my cat refuses all but one kind of food (he's a bit of a grumpy old man sometimes) but spends each night curled at my feet. The phone rings with offers to play, to gather, to dine, to share.

In the darkest days of my life - my cancer, Ryan's depression, then my own depression - I still had this warm, comfortable home. I went to bed every night beneath soft blankets; I still had music and books and friends and family to soothe me. When my body ached beyond bearing, loving hands swooped in to care for me, my home, my family. "We're here for you," they said, and they meant it. Ryan stayed with me, Tessa kept laughing, and we remain a family, loving each other.

So today I'm thinking about all of that incredible good fortune.

The people of Haiti have lost so much already. On the radio, I heard about the contaminated drinking water, and how the silver lining is that the people of Haiti mostly already know about contaminated water and how to treat it. I saw a picture of a shantytown - the poorest of the poor, and even their shacks are gone now. I heard that most people can live three days without food and water.

And the pain of the real loss - the people. It is unbearable. All of the losses grab me, but the ones that hurt me the most are the mothers losing children. And children losing mothers. I know that those mothers love their children as much as I love Tessa, and that those children need their mothers as much as Tessa needs me. ESPECIALLY in the midst of this devastation. I think to myself that maybe I could handle it if I had Tessa beside me reminding me to care for her. Maybe. But if I lost her? My mind would leave me, too.

And the thought of Tessa, separated from Ryan and I, wandering in the streets, hungry and frightened and among corpses? No. Nononono. NO. Just writing that makes me want to fly to her school to hold her, to stroke her hair, to remind myself of her aliveness, her happiness, her safety.

And for the people of Haiti, it's not an exercise in gratitude. It is their hell on earth right now, stepping over bodies and looking for survivors and broken bones without casts and illness without antibiotics. Undoubtedly, there are cancer patients needing radiation or surgery or chemo and now they have nothing, not even water.

Here in Seattle, clean water is falling from the sky, and inside my warm home, I'm sipping peppermint tea and writing and thinking. What great luxuries. My life is one giant luxury.

My prayers for the people of Haiti. My condolences. My tears.

We sent a little check to help, and another Alki mom, Jill, convinced me (merely by mentioning it) to hold a fundraiser for Haiti involving the children of Alki Elementary. This weekend, our church is holding a soup lunch as a fundraiser for Haiti, and I am making a big pot of chili to donate to the event. (Want to come with me? Call me!)

My impact is tiny, just a drop of water in the sea of need. But I am doing what I can, and I hope that others will, too.

1 comment:

hrgottlieb said...

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