Caring is an attitude

Do I care about the world of needs around me when I am not asked to care?

Commentary | Rajmund Dabrowski

Do I care about the world of needs around me when I am not asked to care?

Did the world have to wait for Earth to shake for all of us to notice the Haitian people engulfed in such a deep, deep need of nearly everything? They didn't have enough to live on before; now they have absolutely nothing, a CNN reporter said in a live broadcast. The news coverage, including reporting about our Church's relief efforts, brought to light in vivid images that if the nation was poor before, now it has redefined poverty for the whole world.

A quick check on Haiti's pre-earthquake condition shows a dysfunctional reality laced with corruption, greed, deforestation, shoddy construction and general lawlessness. This man-made disaster is an opportunity for the world to assist in giving Haiti and its people a second chance. It's like being a good neighbor assisting in a rebirth of a nation.

The world's reaction to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake brought out the best in empathy and in service. The overwhelming response from the international community displayed solidarity in a time of need. We prayed. We all gave. We did it now.

And as the world reflected, some chose to use a self-righteous, theologically warped rhetoric, saying that it must have been a national sin that brought such a calamity to Haiti. Pat Robertson's claim that Haiti made a pact with the devil and brought heaven's retribution could hardly be topped as a self-inflicted black eye on Christianity. For some others, the earthquake revived commentaries about how the January 12 calamity was a sign of the times.

My Adventist spiritual heritage refocused as the images and descriptions of Haitian tragedies redefined the way we see tragedy and death in the media. All at once two aspects of my faith were reaffirmed: the readiness for the world -- my own world -- to end, and that my faith is truly fulfilled in active Christian response. Do I care about the world of needs around me regardless, not just when troubling images fill my television screen or when I get dozens of calls to make a donation? And when I give my $10, is it to appease the guilt? Do I care when I am not asked to care?

It's so easy to take note of the numbers of aid items and react to the public relations aspect of a crisis such as Haiti. Honestly, the only competition life-savers were battling with was time. Yes, there was lack of clean water and initially we all watched as aid was too slow to arrive and the unrest was mounting.

Among others, the two Loma Linda University surgeons operating at the Hopital Adventiste d'Haiti in Port-au-Prince or a convoy with ADRA's aid represented me in Haiti right at the center of suffering and despair. Their service -- as the world was watching, their untiring response when there was no time to cry -- cannot, however, excuse me from reacting to the needs that surround me everyday, everywhere.

My personal response to contribute to Haiti's plight cannot absolve me from recognizing caring as an attitude all the time and wherever I am.

At a much different juncture a politician said: It's the economy, stupid. The Haitian crisis woke me up with a cry: It's the people, stupid.

That's where my Christianity can display what I claim to believe.

-- Rajmund Dabrowski is director of communication at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.