Last week on Wednesday and Thursday nights I watched the Haiti news coverage until I'd cried for about 2 1/2 hours straight and had black eyes from it. In different ways it reminded me of what it reminds everyone of - 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami of 2004.
Last summer I spent a few months volunteering with Mer.cy Cor.ps cleaning their warehouse and auditing material aid binders, reading heartbreaking stories of people in need around the world. I sincerely loved it - I loved it - and wish I could write in detail about the work I did and the stories I heard, but I don't exactly know the proper boundaries and I want to err on the correct side. But I did love it and yes, I know I should try to get a job there. I've tried - it's really hard.
Because of my past service I'm on a list of volunteers who are called first when help is needed. What a privilege. So on Friday morning the call came at 10:00 and I gladly went in to work from noon to 5:00.
There were two groups of volunteers set up and the group I sat with was fantastic. There were about 20 people in the other room, but in my area about 6 of us sat around a table getting envelopes ready for donation receipts to be mailed out and working with collateral items for future donors. Of course I was the one to break the silence (must I always be the one? I can't help my mouth) and express how difficult a time I'd had the previous nights watching the news, and that it was incredibly positive to be doing something, channeling my anxiety about the disaster. The others chimed in with their own feelings and stories, and we ended up having such an amazing and even fun time together all afternoon. It was a group around my age or older, and it turned out that they were all liberal Democrats. (I guess the conservatives were busy at home watching Rush Lim.baugh and Pat Rob.ertson?) They were an intelligent, well-traveled and really sharp group, and I got so much comfort from spending time with them.
At one point the guy who heads the entire Haiti effort for MC came to thank us for our help, (one of many who stopped by with that message throughout the afternoon), and we asked him for an update on how things were going. It was such a crazy experience listening to someone so close to the disaster describe the detailed efforts, and great to know that so much is being done. When he left we were all speechless.
There were several encouraging moments throughout the afternoon, but the best was probably several instances of homeless people coming in to make donations to the relief efforts. So humbling.
I watched the news again last night (and bawled my eyes out again) and felt so proud of the US military involvement. What an entirely different mission than the one those guys and girls are usually assigned. I'm so proud of them.
I'm going back to MC next week to man (woman?) the phones. Call in Tuesday morning to make a donation and you'll probably hear my voice. I know it's going to be another great experience. I can't wait.