It’s been an emotional week around here. Like everyone else, we’re deeply saddened by what’s happening in Haiti. My husband's been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. He belongs to an emergency team that is specially trained to rescue people in an urban environment. He’s spent many weekends training for the team, and wants nothing more than to put his skills to good use. Last Thursday they were put on standby to go to Haiti. It was pretty scary, but he was so eager to go, and I was so proud. After a day or so pacing around the house and jumping each time the phone rang, he learned they would not be going after all. The airport is jammed and the U.N. or the U.S. (whoever is running the show) is prioritizing who can come. This team does not come with their own security, and it seems this is a factor. Whatever the reasons, it's a terrible shame, and it was quite the blow.
Coincidentally, I had prearranged plans to see Dr. James Orbinski speak at the Heliconian Club last week. Dr. Orbinski is the author of An Imperfect Offering (a book everyone should read) and he was the International President of Médecins sans Frontières in 1999 when it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was in charge of the MSF mission during the Rwandan genocide. He has witnessed the most horrendous crimes against humanity. He’s literally seen streets running with human blood. Yet, what is so incredible and inspiring is that he remains hopeful. He has seen the worst, but he’s also seen people do the most extraordinary things. He’s seen a father carry a son (the sole survivor of his murdered family, the rest cut down with machetes) hundreds of kilometres on his back, only to lose him a few days later (despite his loss the father waited to thank the doctor for his help). He has many, many stories like this one. He’s witnessed courage, dignity, compassion and generosity under incomprehensible conditions. What also keeps him hopeful, he explains, is that we have the means to make a choice how we live our lives. We can do what we believe to be just.
Dr. Orbinski finished his talk by explaining hope versus optimism. Optimism is the belief that things will turn out right based on evidence. Hope is based on certainty that a given action is right, regardless of how it turns out. If you engage with the world in a hopeful manner, over and over, you contribute to creating the conditions for optimism.
How can you help? Give. Due to the extraordinary generosity of Canadians, MSF’s website has been overwhelmed. But you can click here to access their donation portal directly. Please consider giving to this amazing organization that is doing such brave, hopeful work in Haiti right now.