As I reflect on the past week, I’m reminded about the odd tension in which we live.
I draft this entry on an airplane, where an in-flight magazine features Alec Baldwin elaborating on the hardships of fame and a seat-back catalog tries to convince me that I need a $500 helmet that uses laser therapy to replenish my hairline. Meanwhile, the cost for each student to participate in this trip is well over the average Haitian’s annual income.
After a week of witnessing dehumanizing poverty, you might say I’m experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance.
Why do I live in luxury in the United States while my Haitian brothers and sisters suffer in wretched tent cities and slums? And why do I so easily put out of my mind the billions of other human beings who face similar struggles relentlessly? These aren’t new questions for me. I’ve already lived in Haiti for 4 months, and this week was but a short return trip. Still, posing them again helps to reflect, recalibrate my values, and recognize how I so easily neglect them in my day-to-day living in the U.S.
Life is short. I want my years on earth to count for things that matter like love, peace, compassion and justice, all the while lived in the richness of meaningful community. Instead, I’m so often preoccupied by the distractions of materialism, petty worries, worthless entertainment and self-centeredness.
When I first started laying plans for the Haiti Justice Project two and a half years ago, I wanted it to be an opportunity for students to stretch their hearts and minds in service to the poor, marginalized and oppressed. I hope we’ll remember those short moments of connection and relationship we experienced this week, both with the dispossessed and with each other, and that these experiences will motivate us to eschew mediocrity and live lives marked by values that transcend ourselves.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll quiet Alec down and opt out of picking up that laser helmet. Here’s to spending our lives for the sake of others--thanks to the team and all of our friends in Haiti for helping me, and hopefully us, move towards that end.