Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Despite the fact that the media seems to have the attention span of a gnat, there are still many, many people who have not forgotten about the tremendous suffering that continues in Haiti. I am very proud to be related to two people who are currently working on the frontlines to alleviate some of that suffering. My father and my sister Maureen, as part of a team put together by the Scripps healthcare system, have been working at a hospital in Port au Prince for four days now. They have limited access to email and most communication has been via text message, but my dad has relayed that the devastation is worse than one can imagine. They are busy and it is challenging work made more so by the lack of supplies, the impossible conditions, and the overpowering smell of decaying bodies, but there is no where else that either would be.
The importance of service to others has always been at the forefront of my family's credo. The idea that "of those to whom much is given, much is expected" has long been an essential part of how I see my place in the world. I cannot credit my parents enough for instilling this idea in me and in my siblings.
Some of my earliest memories of living in Vermont are of driving around Burlington with my siblings and my mom in our station wagon, going from restaurant to restaurant to collect the muffins, pastries, and breads that would otherwise be tossed out after Sunday brunch. After making our rounds, we delivered the bounty to the local food shelf. Later on, my mother modeled patience and compassion beyond anything I have ever seen when she took under her wing a very lonely, very chatty developmentally disabled woman, taking her everywhere from the grocery store to bingo night at the high school. I am sure that we grumbled some when we learned Carol would be joining us for Easter dinner, but it was another invaluable lesson in service. In high school, I occasionally joined my dad at the free clinic where he somehow found time to volunteer each week, and after college, I was lucky enough to join him on a medical volunteer mission to Haiti. Today, my mom volunteers each week at the homeless shelter where I worked as a social worker for the first two years I was out of college.
The point, if there is one, is that I feel so strongly that we humans have a responsibility to each other, to our planet, and the other creatures who share it, and I will be eternally grateful for the amazing role models I have in my family. Not just my parents whose star service credentials I have already enumerated, but my siblings as well. Mo is right along side my dad, forgoing all the comforts of home (including the yoga she loves so much) and staring disaster and the civil unrest that comes with it in the face in order to offer some comfort and relief to the people of Haiti. My brother Michael has begun a year of full-time service to his country and to all of us, saying goodbye to his girlfriend, his routines, and his security to spend ten months in Afghanistan performing a service that he firmly believes is his duty. My sister Meghan is forever fundraising, volunteering, walk-a-thoning, benefit-organizing, and generally supporting CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and various other causes, yet she somehow still has time to keep up with bio pre-med coursework and look darn cute while doing it all, I must say.
Seriously, my family amazes me. I am so, so very lucky. I truly have been given so much, and thus I am dedicating myself to getting into a regular volunteering habit. It is, after all number 9 on the list.