It seems like Haiti is on everyone’s hearts and minds at the moment. Such events reach us at a level where we change behavior. I doubt that many of the people texting donations to the Red Cross had never sent a non-personal text message before; I wonder how many had never previously sent a text message. I know a six-year-old child who was doing extra chores to earn money to give to his school’s fundraiser. Big events impact our thinking and our priorities. In these cases, we are driven by compassion and concern. Sometimes it takes big events to break us out of focusing only on our own concerns and daily stressors.
Has Haiti been on your heart or mind? Have you done anything differently as a result? Has the Haitian earthquake changed your eating habits?
Although I have traveled in several areas of the world, including second-world and third-world countries, and worked with people who are living on the streets of Atlanta, nothing seemed to impact me as much as my trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The poverty of the people is heart-breaking, especially the orphanages that care for the children with such a scarcity of resources. Perhaps, it was just timing and I was primed to be impacted, but my first (there will be more) trip to Congo has changed my living. I have not been to Haiti personally, but I know that volunteering in Haitian orphanages changed my brother’s life before he was even old enough to drive.
We ate well at least once each day while we were in Congo because we believe it is important to invest in the local economy and culture; however, we also got to see what is eaten when provisions are scarce. Although we were told that tips are typically a very small percentage of the bill in Congo, we stuck to American standards and compassion, realizing that the tip from our one meal might feed a family for several days.
Since I have returned to the United States, I find it much easier to avoid indulgence and ‘deny myself’ unnecessary treats and calories. It seems like such a waste to order pizza when I know there are children who are sleeping on concrete and possibly not eating. My $20 could feed that child for weeks. I have never been much of a shopper, but my priorities on spending and saving have shifted. So many times I hear people say that they deserve dessert or a rich meal or a glass of wine because they have had a hard day; I wonder to myself what made their day so hard and how it compares to what the millions of people in DRC, Haiti, and around the world struggle with simply for survival.
If Haiti is on your heart and mind, allow yourself to think about the daily life of those people for whom you are feeling compassion. How does your daily life compare? If you have struggled with treats and indulgences in the past, you may find it easier to change your eating habits when you think about Haiti, how hard they are working to survive, and how the money you might spend on that indulgence could help them live.
January 24th, 2010