Friday, August 24, 2012

A Birthday Wish for Sadness

Today is my birthday. In this year marked by intensive therapy and mental health treatment, I have learned a lot about caring for and respecting myself, accepting the love, affirmation, and care that others offer to me, and how to be more carefree and relaxed about my life. I can feel the change. I am happier in small things and can laugh much more readily. I can look at my birthday and allow myself to be indulgent and even a little selfish. The boys are in school, Luke is at work, and I have the opportunity to spend my day however I'd like.

One of the first things on my list for today was to sit and catch up on reading the blogs that I love to read, but often don't have time for. The first one I read was from a family in Haiti. I've never been to Haiti, and I'm not even sure I could accurately point it out on a map if it wasn't marked. But through this blog, Haiti has become one of the places in this world that my heart aches for. In a post that was a few days old, there was mention of Tropical Storm Isaac and the concern that it might hit Haiti. Such a storm would be devastating. Hundreds of thousands of people still live in tent camps, and among many other problems, rising waters would almost certainly spread cholera. Today is the day that the storm will hit or skirt Haiti, and in either case, the results could be catastrophic. My first thought was to check the news throughout the day and pray accordingly for Haiti. My second thought was, "Jaymi, it's your birthday. Do you really want to spend the day thinking about such heavy topics? This is supposed to be a carefree day!"

But my heartstrings have been tugged. There are families that eat one meal every-other day. People who are in dire need of often simple medical procedures that are just out of their reach. Women and children are abused, but have nowhere to escape to. Governments are spending all of their money on lavish accommodations for the politicians, while their people are dying and hurting and struggling and trying to hold onto hope, even though they have every reason to despair. A thousand precious children in our world die every hour from hunger and malnutrition. 

These facts are not new to me. Rarely does a day or week go by that I don't think about the heartache and injustice so prevalent in our world. Yet I feel so helpless. What can I do to make a difference in any of these issues? Sure, we sponsor a child and support organizations that are fighting for justice. But how much is that really doing? Sara Groves captures it well in her song, "The Long Defeat:" And all my strength and energy are raindrops in the ocean . . . It's too heavy to carry and impossible to leave. We must keep fighting. This battle is impossible to leave, even if it is overwhelming.

These thoughts are all rising in me as I sit at home on my birthday. I feel such a conflict. On the one hand, I feel like a new person, who can really accept the love and care of others. On the other hand, any indulgence feels like too much. I don't want to go to the store and get steaks for Luke to grill for us tonight. Those guitar lessons that I was going to spend my birthday money on seem so petty. And that shopping spree that Luke planned for me to get new clothes.....can I really do that? All of these things are relatively modest splurges. But how many kids could be saved by Medika Mamba if we cut back on birthday and Christmas gifts, stopped eating out, and found other ways to shave back our budget? Unfortunately, the answer is "not many." But every little bit helps, right?

Meanwhile I think of the countless people who will call, text, email or write on my Facebook wall wishing me a happy birthday. What if each of them found little ways to tighten their budget and give regularly toward meeting these needs? What if we all asked that for a year, all of our birthday and Christmas gifts be a donation to World Vision, Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, International Justice Mission, or another organization that is meeting these huge needs around the world?

But before any of that comes compassion. Sadness at the state of our world. A deep concern for these needs. A knowledge, deep in your soul, that although it is too heavy to carry, it is impossible to leave it alone. And so I state my birthday wish: that each of my friends and family, near and far, would be sad. That you would read these words, research these issues, look at the pictures, and feel compassion that lingers so deeply that you can't quite continue on without a thought for the sick, hungry, and enslaved people of our world. And that that sadness would motivate action. Maybe not today and maybe not with very much, but that in time, hearts would change and eyes would open and we would together fight to pour as many raindrops of help into this ocean of despair as we can.

Meanwhile, pray for the safety of the people of Haiti today. Find news articles that will tell you more about them than the RNC that could also be affected by this storm. One perspective is a matter of life and death, the other is merely politics as usual. Which is more important?!?!