This week, I was going to write about Dan Pink’s new book about motivation, Drive.
Then, I also considered writing about Brigid Schulte’s article in The Washington Post, about a busy working mom’s search for leisure time.
I also thought about writing an arch, sassy essay on New Year’s Resolutions.
But I couldn’t write those posts. They seem so inconsequential.
Because I can’t get Haiti out of my mind.
The scope of the loss there is so hard to grasp. The only way I’ve been able to understand it is like this: It’s as if Land Shark Stadium in Miami, filled to the rafters for the Super Bowl, collapsed and suddenly every single person in the stadium – players, refs, fans, vendors, women selling programs, beer guys, security guards – died.
And as if every single car in the parking lot were filled with people who were hurt by falling debris from the stadium, had no gas, no food, no water, and no where to go.
And everyone in Miami suddenly had no power, no police, no firemen, no nothing.
Imagine if we began burying people in a mass grave in the middle of the football field.
That’s what Haiti is like.
And so much else feels insignificant.
Last Friday as I watched the news coverage out of Port-au-Prince, I found myself feeling much the same way I did on September 11, 2001. I live four miles from the Pentagon, and I knew someone on that plane. I knew people who worked at the Pentagon, and a security guard who saved lives. Firefighters just down the street were among the first responders. I saw the smoke, I smelled the jet fuel, I saw the scorch marks. The loss felt so heavy.
One hundred and twenty five souls died that day at the Pentagon. Almost 3,000 people died in New York, Pennsylvania and DC as a result of the 9-11 attack. Our attention has been grabbed by other recent situations. Nearly 4,500 soldiers have died in Iraq since 2003. Eight hundred and fifty in Afghanistan. Six thousand five hundred people died from swine flu in 2009, worldwide.
All of these instances have received understandable media coverage.
But Haiti’s death toll is almost 1000 times that of the Pentagon. More than thirty times the losses of 9-11. Twenty times the soldiers lost in Iraq. Fifteen times that lost to swine flu.
It is so big.
So what can we do? We can, and have, given to charitable organizations who are on the ground in Haiti, delivering basic supplies, medical assistance and coordinating recovery efforts. In just a few days, $12 million has been generated in ten dollar increments for the American Red Cross by text messaging alone.
We are a generous people.
And catastrophes tend to bring us together, and bring out the best in us.
So I have an idea.
What if we could keep that generosity going? Certainly to Haiti as it rebuilds.
But also to Flint, Michigan, as it recovers.
And to Schenectady and Siler City. And to Des Moines and Danville.
And to Main Street and to your very own street.
Amid our personal concerns about our financial health and prospects for the future, what if we made a commitment to keep on being as generous in the future as we are right now?
What if, as a business owner, you hired someone and accepted a slightly smaller profit margin for yourself?
What if, as a homeowner, you hired someone to repair your roof rather than get up on a ladder?
What if, as a corporation, you added just one percent to your workforce?
What if, as a bank, you lent money to people who will use it to create opportunity for others through employment?
What if, as a society, we figuratively kept texting each other $10 each day?
Why, we’d change everything.