Like many others, I've been consumed by Haiti these past couple weeks.
I've read countless articles, watched various late-breaking news reports and said many prayers.
In my quest to stay informed and my desire to feel and grieve along with the world, I stumbled across one little blip in my RSS feed that has haunted me ever since.
It was this article--its headline, actually--that grabbed my attention and imprinted this pervasively bizzare image in my brain that has stuck with me ever since.
It pops up when I'm stirring my morning oatmeal.
It flashes when I'm stuck in traffic after work.
It has wormed its way into the inner depths of my everyday thinking and after all that contemplating, I still can't quite articulate why except to say that it encompasses what I see as pivotal to the struggle of the human experience.
Haiti was clearly a devastating, horrific, heart-wrenching disaster and my intention is certainly not to demean or belittle the very real travesty that has besieged our Southern neighbors.
In fact, it is this gripping sense of helplessness, mixed with compassion, laced with wide-eyed why? and how? and Lord, have mercy! that caused me to immediately flinch when I saw that Royal Caribbean was docking luxury cruise lines a mere 60 miles from the earthquake rubble.
Un.be.freaking.lievable! I thought, immediately outraged. How completely insensitive! How terribly selfish! Do they have NO HEART?!
Turns out, even the passengers were divided in the decision as the Guardian reports:
"I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water," one passenger wrote on the Cruise Critic internet forum.
"It was hard enough to sit and eat a picnic lunch at Labadee before the quake, knowing how many Haitians were starving," said another. "I can't imagine having to choke down a burger there now.'
Upon further investigating, it appears that, in fact, the Haitian government actually asked Royal Caribbean to make the journey for both the "economic benefit that they normally bring" according to NPR's interview with Mr. Adam Goldstein, CEO Royal Caribbean International, and because the trip is doubling as a relief effort--with "about 40 to 60 pallets' worth of materials" being unloaded with each ship call (also from this article).
So, maybe there are decent reasons for Royal Caribbean's decision and really, it isn't so much the actual incident that has my mind reeling.
Instead, this idea--this image of a docked cruise line filled with sun-bathing tourists sipping pina coladas and splashing in the water miles from rubble, chaos, and death...well, isn't that something we can all relate to?
And I don't say this looking down my nose or even in at attempt to make us all feel terrible and walk away defeated.
It's more that, well, I feel like we are all constantly living in that tension--
To live a life of joy while living in a world that is groaning.
To hold onto hope in a world that is so full of despair.
To flee from cozy oblivioin yet also run from cynicism.
To really feel others' suffering without becoming hardened.
And it's this dance, you know? One minute, texting to lend aid to a relief fund and the next laughing over late-night pancakes with a friend.
And somehow coming to terms with the knowledge that there will always be a Haiti, in some sense. Rwanda. Iraq. Illiteracy. Poverty. Human trafficking. Etc.Etc.Etc.
And these are huge problems. And I am just one.
And it is so, so easy to get swallowed in that reality and to walk away either crippled with guilt for having while others have not or admitting defeat and resigning myself to inaction, thanking my lucky stars that at least it wasn't me.
And it's sobering and it's confusing and it's essential that we as a community continue to remind each other: do not lose heart.
We are running a race.
We are called to care.
And there is always, always, always hope.