On a few occasions I taught a unit called Poverty and the Environment to high school seniors who were in my Social Justice class. The point of the unit was to show how environmental factors and natural disasters disproportionately affect those in impoverished nations. The existing weak infrastructure of buildings, government and aid groups combined with inability to control clean water, food sources and the spread of disease all contribute to making an already bad situation worse. It was sometimes difficult to make them understand without any real-time examples.
When the earthquake hit Haiti two weeks ago I thought immediately of what the reaction may have been like in my classroom if I were still teaching. How would my students feel? What suggestions would they have for outreach? Who would be the one with ideas for help? I never doubted that they would care.
I was right. In the days immediately following the earthquake my Facebook was bursting with status updates from former students, family and friends about Haiti. Some promoted campus prayer services, others ads for how to donate to relief efforts, and a few were simple statements of sadness like “poor Haiti.”
On Friday night I stumbled on the radio broadcast for George Clooney’s Haiti telethon. I am generally leery of things organized by celebrities, but the music was good and Anderson Cooper was reporting. As I heard them talk about orphans and tent cities and the people from around the world who were freely giving their time and talents to help the Haitian people, I cried. I wept in my car for those who died, for those who lost everything, and because we are a good people.
We care—we Americans who people criticize for being apathetic; we Americans who are recovering from an economic crisis; we Americans who so often are isolated from the rest of the world—we care.
I believe that we are a good people. On occasion we as individuals or a nation make poor choices. Sometimes we don’t react as we should. But we are a good people.
For four short years I was blessed to work with young women. I think it will be a long time before I stop thinking of many world events in terms of their experience and their reaction. Looking to them gives me hope. The love, passion and joy of the younger generation reminds me that there is still goodness in people. The lessons they are learning both in the classroom and through their world will ensure that we continue to be good people who love deeply and give graciously.