As a child of the Seventies, I was very much coming to terms with being in the world at about the time that Bob Geldof called the world to action over the famine in Ethiopia. I just remember Live Aid, the Christmas record with all those popsters from my teenage past, The ITV Telethon, and subsequently Children in Need etc etc. The call to action to correct an ill in the world is as familiar to me as my own nose, and I have discovered that I was immunised to the horror that unfolded on my TV screen with such regularity (my nose is fairly horrific too, but that is another post for later). Even Hurrican Katrine in all its consuming horror and pain felt somehow routine, I am sad to say.
Until my two-year old daughter saw the news images of dust-covered children crying. Until she asked me why the baby girl was crying. Until she asked me where her mummy was. Until she asked me why she didn't have any toys. Until she wanted to know why her house had fallen down and broken her bedroom. I hope, for as long as I live, that I never have to explain an earthquake and its effects to a two-year old. They know enough to know when they are being fobbed off. They know enough to know that something bad has happened. To explain 'because she has lost her toys', 'why', 'because her house fell over', 'why', 'because sometimes the floor shakes', 'why', 'because there are big rocks in the floor and some of them fell over', 'so where is her mummy', 'I dont know baby', 'is she still in the house?', 'I thing she might be, yes', 'can she go to the doctor, daddy?', 'no, baby', 'why', 'because the hospital is broken', 'can I give her a cuggle daddy', 'she would like a cuggle, love' - and my heart aches.
I now know what got Bob Geldof. I get it. My immunisation has worn off because I was forced to a view a tragedy through the lens of innocence. Rebekah returned to the same questions all day. She doesn't understand death, but she recognised and empathised with real pain, the pain of one she saw who was of the same age.
How do I begin to pray for Haiti? My heart and mind isn't big enough, my will strong enough or my prayerfulness sufficient. I can do little else for that dusty little girl than throw money into a hole and hope that somehow, she will gain from my meagre offering. I, like my baby girl, think about that child often.
May God bless her, and all those caught up in such an accute tragedy.