I heard about the earthquake last night, about the ground jostling and buckling beneath the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. I saw the photos this morning, high-rises tumbled like Legos, shocked faces unable to take in the devastation.
But, selfishly, I felt grief for the loss of life, for the pain and suffering only distantly. Very distantly.
Until an hour ago.
An hour ago I received an e-mail from our small (pop 1200) town's homeschool group. A dear, dear family who has accompanied me to Seder meals with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity lost a loved one, a loved one I met once myself.
L and S are wonderful, peaceful people. The kind who stop by just to say "I love you." Who reach out to help others so readily: caring for the sick in our town; adopting children from China and Taiwan. S has accompanied me to Lake Murray's Women's Retreats. Elizabeth has babysat for them. I taught writing to their oldest last year; in the past, we've done a California History co-op, taking turns teaching.
S and I walked a labyrinth a long while ago -- treading narrow, curved paths while the summer sun sank westward, praying deeply through the hour. Comfortably not speaking.
Girls' nights on L&S's back deck, glasses of ruby wine in hand under twinkle lights, laughing at their children's antics.
L's mother was at a medical conference in Haiti when the quake struck. The building she was in at the time collapsed, and her death has been confirmed.
An earthquake thousands of miles away impacts our little mountain village. E-mails fly. Prayers are offered. Meals are made and delivered. Hugs, vain attempts at consolation, demonstrate heart-deep love.
And now I grieve.
The irony strikes me, and I grieve more deeply that it takes a personal tragedy to make the pain of hundreds of thousands, even millions, real to me. The news, so easily ignored before, now attracts my attention now that neighboring lives are involved, touched, broken.
I try not to bristle in offense at the so-called Christian response of Pat Robertson who claims those suffering somehow deserved this tragedy, calling the quake and its devastation a judgment of God because "Haiti swore a pact with the devil." Who is he to interpret the mind of God? I feel ashamed to be identified with the same Name he claims. I echo a friend who writes,"I wonder if God is sick of being accused of mass murder in the guise of terror and natural disasters?"
Christ wept when tragedy came to His neighborhood, to His friends. He cried consolingly with Martha and Mary, even though He knew that joy was mere moments away, that He would soon call "Come forth!"
He wept then, at the death of a friend. He weeps now, at the deaths of many friends. The fallen world ... a fallen place. So much sadness, terror, grief. He weeps with us.
What can we do but weep with Him? Extend a helping hand. Lift helping hands in prayer:
O God, merciful and compassionate, who art ever ready to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in thee; Graciously hearken to us who call upon thee, and grant us thy help in this our need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayers in Time of Calamity, 1928 Book of Common Prayer)And then we weep with those who weep.