Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Solidarity with the Poor

January 16, 2010

This week, we have all been discussing the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti. People young and old are talking about it. Radio stations from Boortz to the Fish to country are raising money. Children are collecting coins. I have not grown tired of it and have not yet turned off the radio during the commute. Hearing it makes me proud and a little in awe at human beings.

It is not every day that I am encouraged by humanity, by the ways in which we treat one another. But when tragedy hits, I am always taken aback by the expressions of resilience, compassion, advocacy, action.

I graduated from a wonderful program called JustFaith last year. We studied Catholic social teaching and one of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching is Solidarity with the Poor. Pope John Paul described this idea in many ways, but I liked this one best. "Solidarity... is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Solicitudo Rei Socialis #39)

I had the blessing of the true sense of solidarity with the poor at a young age. One of my first experiences was at St. Vincent's Academy. Our high school was asked to create a team to raise money in the fight against cancer. A few months of some very motivated teenage gals yielded over $10,000 for Relay for Life. I can almost touch that feeling of knowing what people with good hearts and a willingness to ACTION can do.

A few years later, our country experienced one of it's greatest tragedies. Like many others, September 11th, 2001 remains etched in my brain. I remember almost every second of the day. But one memory stands out and remains of my most treasured memories from college. I was living in the sorority house, and as most students did that day, we left class and went home. As I returned to the Alpha Delta Pi house, girls were scrambling to DO something. Within minutes of coming home from Spanish class, the cars were filing out of the driveway. Our house emptied and we all gathered at the American Red Cross. We stood in line for hours to give blood. I also remember this day because my great friend Scott, who lived in the neighboring fraternity house, was doing the same thing with his guys. The newspaper snapped a photo of Scott and I hugging outside the donation center. Again, I can feel that sense of ability and power in actually doing something concrete to help.

Sadly, we have had reasons since to collaborate and work. Hurricane Katrina wrecked hundreds of thousands of lives. But again, people loaded up their trucks with lumber and tools and WENT. Students raised money. Friends of mine walked along the coast in Mobile picking up debris. People prayed and fasted and sent checks. Others drove and built and fed and clothed. To me, these are all ACTION words. They are verbs. They are not good intentions. They are decisions. I am amazed at people who put their money where their mouths are.

So, unfortunately, here we are again. We have a neighboring country experiencing pure and total devastation. And again, amidst the devastation, people are ACTING. I spend a lot of time wondering where generosity is, where community has gone, where advocacy has gone. And times like these, the most horrible of times, I am reminded that it still exists. People are jolted and horrified into providing for others. I am horrified and jolted into providing for others. Comfort zones be gone. So while this neighboring country, this island whose extreme poverty I have seen with my own eyes, suffers and struggles, people everywhere have been lifted out of their own lives and are compelled to insert their hands, hearts, prayers, money, talents and resources into anothers. I hurt for the Haitian people. But I smile at the hardened hearts softened on their behalf.

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