Hell and Hope

On our drive through the city yesterday in the back of the flatbed truck normally used to carry bodies to be buried, Conan (longterm volunteer and general sarcastic badass) made one of his typical comments that cut straight to the core.

We were taking pictures of the collapsed National Palace when he sarcastically said, "Thank God they haven't rebuilt anything in the last year; otherwise we'd have nothing to take pictures of."

During the last few weeks, I've been inspired to whip out my camera each time we pass a building that remains in ruins. I know that part of it is to share the devastation with those back home, but it does make me a bit embarrassed to admit that I was excited to see the collapsed cathedral and other buildings so that I would have some amazing photos and thrilling experiences in Haiti to share when I return.

The presence of the media yesterday at the Cathedral mass, cameras shoving their way up to the front so that the altar was surrounded not by mourners or worshippers, but by reporters, reinforced Conan's disparaging comment. It got me thinking.

Why, as human beings, do we seek out the shocking depictions of suffering so often? Shouldn't I be praying not to see a single collapsed building and shouldn't I prefer to share stories of rebuilding with my friends and family? I don't want to be just another cog in the media wheel that overloads people with images of suffering so much that they get saturated and overwhelmed and don't want to donate because it seems like it could never start to make a difference.

But it's almost as if I fear that the world will see miniscule amounts of progress in Haiti and turn its back; thinking Haiti no longer needs our help. So I end up being as guilty as reporters of rushing to capture a collapsed building to share with those back home. I might not shove a video camera in the face of a woman collapsed on the ground in tears, but I'm not innocent in the perpetuation of these images of suffering and destruction.

But today is a new day. Yesterday was such a positive experience for me and I want people to know that the anniversary of the earthquake was sad and difficult, but mostly full of celebration of the lives of those we lost and remembrance. And there is so much hope here. The organization I have been working with is absolutely stellar, and my faith in NPFS has been reinforced over and over in the last 17 days.

We all sat together yesterday at 4:53, the minute the earthquake happened last year, and just had a small chat to help the moment pass without too much nervousness. Gena was talking about why she's lived in Haiti for over a decade, and how she gets through the frustrations of each day. She talked about looking at the small picture; about recognizing your abilities - but also your limits - as one person and the small things you can do each day. Looking at the big picture is overwhelming, but one person can change a lot if you take things one day at a time. And an amazing group of people each doing their part every day can accomplish amazing things.

So I leave you with something incredibly positive: the brand spanking new video released yesterday that captures much of what NPFS has accomplished this last year. It is amazing and I am so proud to be a small part of this organization. It is 15 minutes long but I know each person who appears in it personally and I hope you are as inspired by them as I am!