January 29, 2010

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Families can help and be helped by Haitians

Sean GallagherThe giant earthquake that rocked Haiti on Jan. 12 caused the deaths of some 200,000 people, injured and made homeless millions more, and brought about destruction of buildings that is beyond what I suspect any of us can comprehend.

But it has also inspired many people in our own archdiocese, across the country and around the world to give generously to the relief effort for the people of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere even before the earthquake.

This is also a time when parents can take steps to instill in their children a real spirit of stewardship.

Those with young children might encourage them to give part of their allowance to the relief effort. Parents might invite them to do extra chores around the house, and give them a small monetary reward for doing so on the condition that they give part of it to help those affected by the quake.

Older children who have part-time jobs could be encouraged to donate some of their earnings.

Since the need for help is so clear on this occasion, it should be easier to convince children to do their part.

Their contributions might not add up to much, but if their efforts play any part in building up a habit of stewardship within them then the ultimate benefits will be manifold.

Stewardship, though, is far more than about making a monetary donation. If it is to become a habit, a real and daily part of our life of faith, then it must have a firm, spiritual foundation.

Making a contribution to relieve the suffering of those affected by the earthquake in Haiti should be the fruit of a deep, almost visceral awareness that every single thing that we have is a gift from God, and that he lovingly provides for all of our needs.

Interestingly enough, this is where the faith-filled people of Haiti can help us.

As I have done reporting on how archdiocesan parishes are participating in the Haitian relief effort, I’ve heard from more than one person how the people of Haiti, who live in such poverty even in the best of times, have a deep trust in God and his Providence.

“God is good” seems to be always on their lips. And, for them, it’s not an empty phrase.

Georgann Coons, who helps coordinate the Haitian mission work of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour, forwarded to me an

e-mail sent to her by Father Rodolphe Balthazar, a Haitian priest she has worked with over the years.

In his e-mail, he wrote that he had family members injured in the quake who needed to go to a hospital.

“The problem is,” Father Balthazar wrote, “that we cannot go to any hospital because Port-au-Prince is like a big cemetery with dead bodies all over the streets.”

He went on to write of other challenges equally unimaginable to most Americans. Yet, in the end, he was able to write, “Thanks for all your prayers. God is good!”

All of us, myself included, can and should learn from the faith of Father Balthazar and countless other Haitians like him.

If we had a faith like his, and manifested it in a daily life of loving stewardship in our homes, parishes, the broader community and the world at large, there would be no limit to what God could do through us.

Then more and more people could say from the bottom of their hearts, “God is good!” †

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