Feeling powerless is not an unusual occurrence for me. I come across many situations each day that, try as I might, I am powerless to change. And yet, my feeling of powerlessness was taken to a new level this week with the earthquake in Haiti. Like many people, I was regretting that decision not to go to medical school or at the very least paramedic school so that I could do something to help. (I don’t think that paramedic school requires that you be able to pass college physics, so that might have been the better option for me.) I don’t think that there’s much of a need for marketing experience in Haiti, at least for right now. Like many people (about a million, according to the last estimate I heard), I texted 90999 from my cell phone to donate $10 to the Red Cross, and went on-line to donate more to Episcopal Relief and Development. And I prayed. And I watched Anderson Cooper. But that didn’t seem like very much.
And I was struck by the stories of others who felt the same way. I listened to the story of an Episcopal Youth Volunteer from our diocese, who had been missing for 24 hours after the quake, until she was finally able to call her mother. She was flown home to the U.S. later in the week, and she spoke of the guilt she felt over leaving, when there were so many who needed help, and who, as Haitian citizens, were not able to leave. But in the end, she realized that by staying, she would be another mouth to feed in a place where there were too many other mouths to feed, and that it would be better to come home for now, and go back again when her skills could be put to use.
I was the substitute pianist in a small Presbyterian church this morning. As it happened, the New Testament reading was from 1 Corinthians. That passage about how we each have unique gifts. Some of us speak in tongues, some of us have the gift of prophecy, some of us the gift of healing. I don’t happen to have any of the gifts that were actually listed in the passage – interpreting tongues is not my thing. But I guess the point is to figure out what our gifts are, and to use them to the best of our ability, rather than agonizing over the gifts we don’t have. So today I shared with a small congregation my ability to play hymns on the piano, and with my own congregation my ability to cantor the Psalm, and with my kids my gift for patience. (That last one was a joke, to see if you were paying attention.) And tomorrow I’ll go to work and share my gifts to do what I do there.
For now, that’s what I can do. Maybe tomorrow, there will be another way to share my gifts to help the situation in Haiti. If I look, there will certainly be opportunities to share my gifts with people here in Oak Park.
Ok….maybe not completely powerless.