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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


So what are we supposed to do? (Please excuse this post as completely rhetorical, as I look for the answer myself.) We could send money and supplies. But in a country with no infrastructure, how far do the money and supplies go? With so much devastation, who will physically be there to meet the shipments at the airport or docks or banks or wherever this vague notion of ‘aid’ eventually ends up? Aren’t we just applying the same (il)logic as we do when we send money and loans to Africa? How much does our ‘quick-fix’ support actually accomplish, besides simply assuaging our guilt and sense of obligation?

Obviously, people need to go to Haiti. People who can spend long periods of time assessing the situation, making informed decisions, working with the communities. People to organize, people who are well-acquainted with the ideas of infrastructure and triage and a properly functioning socioeconomic system, they need to go and help. But who’s going to go? I’m not. You most likely won’t either.

So what am I supposed to do? Pray? Is that ‘enough?’ Surely Jesus had something ‘more’ in mind when he told us to love our neighbors…so, what then? I believe that long-term participation and engagement with the local people is the only way to help, but yet I’m not willing to pause my life here to go commit to helping others long-term. Can I really just let myself off the hook with a “Meh, emergency response is someone else's job, somewhere. I don’t have to worry.”

From the outside, praying is a more 'convenient' way to help than actually taking time out to physically go and assist. But I know in reality, both are equally important.



Dave said...

Really all people want to do is, as you put it, "assuaging our guilt and sense of obligation." People can be so (secretly) selfish in their apparent altruism, even if they don't realize that is what is happening. Oh well, people will still buy $1 bracelets, listen to Coldplay, and think they are in anyway helping anyone.

Dave said...

particularly the response by Brian Concannon Jr.

Eric said...

Hey, this is Victoria from Xanga. You somehow stumbled across my post about my dad and oranges, and left your link. I thought I'd take time to check it out. :)

Regarding Haiti, I have similar questions. I think our focus needs to be on doing the small bit God asks us to and trusting that He's working on enough of the "right" people to take care of the big stuff. I don't know about you, but if I went to Haiti on my own, I'd be clueless and probably do more harm than good. It requires some strategy which I am most definitely not equipped to provide. What I AM equipped to do is help to mobilize groups that can help the hurt and homeless right NOW. I am also equipped to pray, which is a lot more than we think it is. I agree that we can sometimes use prayer as an excuse to gloss over our conviction that action is necessary. But that doesn't mean prayer is ineffective or a waste of time.

Each of us doing what we can helps to weave a big picture plan of action. :)

On a completely unrelated note, you should think about joining Xanga. I notice you don't get many comments here, and while I don't get loads myself on Xanga I can usually start a conversation with at least a couple people every time I post. I love that interaction. And I'd love to help you get started! You seem like a really cool person--honest, slightly quirky, a real thinker... Xanga is pretty good to folks like you. ^_^

Unsympathetic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unsympathetic said...

Here's that link again:

I'm not sure exactly how to confront the Haiti scenario either..

Let's assume a ship full of supplies powers to the port. There's no crane to unload the ship yet, they were all destroyed, so pulling the containers out takes a while. So now there's a big pile of supplies on a dock. But there's no trucks to move the supplies further inland. And even if there were trucks, those trucks couldn't go anywhere.. because there's no bulldozers to push the rubble out of any road that you can find. It's a mess.

I'm glad there are people willing to confront the mess and promote order in the chaos, though. May God be with them!

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