Why is it that only in a crisis do we realize the value of life? Why is it only then we know what is important and we become our best selves?
Reading, watching and talking about Haiti I see and feel the devastation but I also recognize the compassion of strangers coming together in solidarity to help.
I'm no Pollyanna and know there a number of individuals that take advantage of disasters by looting or setting up fake charities to collect money from the well intentioned. But I'm not talking about those people because they are the minority. I'm talking about the millions of people that want to help and are helping.
I believe when president Obama, Clinton and George Bush stood together at the White House, asking their fellow citizens to join together in benevolence and kindness they meant that. Committing to assist is a transformational act.
I'm sure many of the politicians, doctors, journalists and others who are now on the ground in Haiti are not thinking about their personal finance, or fame or anything else. I believe most of them are in high gear to help, and are thankful not to be a victim in this catastrophe.
Now, anyone who has gone through any type of loss knows that life's value system changes after a tragedy. But unfortunately some of the changes loose steam as life goes on.
At some point we knew what is important; love, health, friendship, laughter, but somehow the struggles of life start to take a toll and we start to forget.
Why can't we live life remembering that every day counts and that love has to be tended to and cared for?
All of us who don't live in poverty, and therefore have food to eat and a bed to sleep in, spend a lot of our time thinking how to climb up the social and economic ladder often at the cost of relationships and simple contentment.
How many hours do we spend working or in front of a computer? How many hours do we spend with ourselves and others? When was the last time we asked ourselves what can I do for you today? Or sat quietly enjoying the weather, a good meal, or good conversation?
We are always in a hurry and multitasking. We drive and put make up on at the same time. We dine and check our email. We shop and talk on the cell phone.
Are we ever quiet so we can check in with ourselves? How often do we even remember such basic things as taking deep breaths?
The world is moving fast and unless we make a concerted effort to be in touch with ourselves, others and the world, we are just like chickens running around with our heads cut off.
I have a hunch all the people in Haiti when they come back, they will spend time with their families and friends and appreciate them in a renewed way. They will be inspired by a smile and inclined to simple pleasures. But I also have a hunch that in time that will lessen and some of the profound feelings they are experiencing now will also be lessened. So what's the solution?
I heard of a course that emphasizes living one's life as if we only had a year to live. Truly having that thought would really put life in perspective on a daily basis. Who would want to engage in road rage when we had a limited time to live? Who would want to be angry at tech support in India when time was limited?
But who would want to spend quality time with their pets, friends, and family? I think most everyone.
To quote a cliche, life is precious, even with all the difficulties and the unavoidable pain that we all have to go through, but if we slow down for the small gifts we are given on a daily basis life can be also beautiful.
I propose remembering with more frequency what matters and what doesn't and if we can do that I'm going out on a limb and affirming that life will be more satisfying.