Opportunity for Progress

As Haiti continues to dig out from Tuesday’s catastrophic earthquake, projected US donations will likely total a few billion dollars. These funds will save lives, no question, and the citizenry’s generosity will again prove that the infallible and speedy actions of empowered people will always trump plodding bureaucracies.
The most cynical of observers will undoubtedly question American donors and their sincerity, opting to dismiss their kindness as somehow politically motivated or self-righteous grandstanding. While the doubters speculate, the motivated masses are seeing a need in Haiti and meeting it. This surge isn’t just composed of Hollywood elites – pseudo-philanthropists of convenience – who engage in a pissing contest to see who can pat themselves on the back the hardest. It’s not some retailers, who align their products with causes only to give a meager percentage for every exorbitant purchase. No, these donors recognize that compassion is more than buying an Ethos Water from Starbucks or a (Product)Red shirt from The Gap.
Direct, unified action births swift, perceived progress. We’ve seen this in the past few days. Cellphone users in the US have donated roughly $11 million through simple text messages thus far. Twitter and Facebook campaigns leapfrogged traditional media and went straight to the people, urging one another to recognize a glaring need and to give. So far, the response is staggering.
At the heart of this movement are people – working and retired folks, moms, dads, couples, singles, students, rich, poor and everyone in between. All giving something.
And during this tremendous outpouring we ask: What must we do to keep this train moving? and Why do we wait for catastrophe to extend a hand, to offer our sympathies and convey our understanding of one another?
Let’s remember that US missiles with near-million dollar price tags displaced families and killed innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Let’s remember that the funds to build one F-16 fighter jet could help rebuild a war-torn country, provide medicine to sick children and feed starving families.
Let’s remember our own city’s homeless, who will sleep in cars or out in the elements tonight, having no promise of a meal tomorrow.
Let’s remember those families in our proximity who, no fault of their own, won’t have the funds to pay the power bill this month.
How about a collection for them, too?
May this awful tragedy in Haiti remind us of the power of a focused, compassionate humanity, identifying needs and meeting them unconditionally. Moreover, let’s keep our eyes open for each other here in the states as well. Then perhaps “Progress”, “Hope” and “Change” will become more to us than just fanciful, campaign rhetoric.