The day I learned of the earthquake in Haiti, my stomach just fell. I looked at the images on my computer screen and wondered how on earth people ever pick up and carry on after that kind of horror.
I watched with pride as my church quickly sent relief planes and help was sent from LDS people across the border in the Dominican Republic. Certainly I don't mean to toot the LDS horn to the exclusion of the many, many other organizations that have provided help, I just was so proud to be part of a group that quickly offers compassion and help. I also have noted with extreme satisfaction LDS.org's main page, encouraging members worldwide to contribute however we can.
I saw images of bodies piling up, of mass graves, of crude burning pyres right alongside the streets, people pulled alive but broken from the wreckage, mothers grieving for lost children and children for parents, and it made my heart hurt. To know that the country suffered so horribly before the earthquake made the calamity seem like salt in an open wound.
The first day, I saw an outpouring of shock and grief. The days passed, and I noticed a shift. Supporting Haiti was becoming a political thing. People were angry at Hollywood for taking up the cause. I heard snide comments that President Obama only cared about the issue because the victims are black. I became very angry. Who cares if movie stars are helping people who are living through hell? It's not Haiti's fault. And when someone lifts a hand or donates money to make a life a bit better, where is the crime? How could this thing have possibly become political?
And then, I found myself thinking less about Haiti and more about my own life, my own problems. It's only natural, I know this. I would catch myself praying for things and then wondering how I possibly had the right to worry over little things when my Heavenly Father has other children who need him now more than I do. I suppose the beauty of God is that he can care for us all, and I know that, but I was reminded of how I felt after 9-11. I would laugh at something silly or find joy around me and then feel a twinge of something. Guilt? Probably it's guilt. A sense of sorrow for a moment that I'm finding joy and other people are living through unspeakable pain.
I remember when Saturday Night Live came back on the air after 9-11. It was a beautiful, welcome relief. It was done with love, with gentleness, it resurrected the knowledge for me that, even when horrible things happen, good still exists. We should grieve. We should help. We must do all we can to lift the hands and heads that hang low in hopeless agony. We must also cling to hope and joy and faith in a Maker who allows things to happen in this life, possibly to show the rest of us how to be humane, how to love and serve.
As I continued to watch attempted relief efforts in Haiti, and still do watch, I am reminded that, as the Proverb says, "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick." That we must cling to hope like it's all we have, and work as hard as we possibly can for the betterment of our own lives and those within our realm of influence. I know that the problems and trials in my own life, while in comparison to others may seem small, are still real and I can pray for help without feelings of guilt or inadequacy. I will keep it in perspective- one of my favorite quotes from Robert Fulghum is the notion that there are three kinds of lumps in life: a lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast. I've learned to try to categorize the lumps and make sure I'm not acting as though I've a lump in the breast when really it's a lump in the throat that may not deserve as much attention as I'm giving it. And yet, the lump in the throat may still need a prayer or two, and it's ok.
My heart continues to ache for those who are suffering in Haiti, and everywhere in the world where unspeakable things happen that I know would test my faith and my sanity. History is replete with examples of hell on earth, and yet in those stories there are silver linings to the clouds, blessings from a benevolent God who sees all and loves all, and sometimes those blessings come through not only his angels in heaven but also those he has stashed here on earth. They are all around us.
I'm going to try to be an earthly angel. And to smile and feel joy and hope, even when things are bleak. The human spirit is resilient, and we are here to learn from the pain and find joy in the journey. So I answer my own question that, yes, even when horrible things happen, we are still allowed to be happy. I find comfort in that.