It was one year ago January 12 that an earthquake rocked Haiti.
An already impoverished country, reeling from the effects of a hurricane, poverty and intense political upheaval, the country was decimated by a massive earthquake which flattened poorly constructed buildings, burying the occupants.
It is one year after this horrific tragedy and I am sitting in the comfort of a cosy cabin, just finishing a Facebook update complaining about the brutal cold, when the radio begins to remind me of the struggles the people of Haiti are still experiencing today.
Living amidst rubble in makeshift dwellings, in camps rife with crime and abuse, people still struggle to find enough to eat and drink and to keep themselves and their children safe. And I complain about the weather.
It always amazes me how humans have such an incredible capacity to adapt. We immerse ourselves into the present reality, and can sometimes lose touch with the bigger picture.
Or perhaps it is only my problem.
Regardless, I have traveled to countries of utter deprivation. A man once begged myself and my companions for some sort of ointment or treatment of any kind to help his young son who had suffered visibly painful burns to his face. The child and his father lived in remote Nepal, their village accessible only on foot.
I recall being strongly affected by the man’s humble gratefulness when I gave him the antibiotic ointment I had.
When I returned from that trip, I experienced extreme culture shock, flying into Vancouver and attempting to resume “normal” North American life.
It seemed so surreal to be in a place where people could be so caught up in such petty and selfish concerns. Where the crisis could be as simple as a driver cutting a person off on their morning commute. I couldn’t handle hearing people complain about how broke they were because they spent all of their paycheque on a new computer or drinks at the bar and were short for the rent.
This culture shock eventually subsided, and I was once again, naturalized to our way of life, and have become better at switching back and forth between developing countries and Canada.
But I still appreciate the reminders I get on days like this, that while it is cold outside and I might not be happy having to sweep the snow off of my windshield in -20, I am a very lucky person.
I live in a country where I know I will be taken care of if I burn my hand. Where I will not be financially ruined if a small unexpected expense comes up.
We live in a country where most people have the disposable income to purchase unnecessary luxuries such as mp3 players and cell phones. Where having a computer is a given, while in many places having electricity and running water are not even guaranteed, and a family of five lives in one room and is lucky to have it.
While I don’t think it helps anyone to feel guilty, I do think it’s good to try and maintain some kind of perspective.
Today, I give thanks that I am so blessed, and I hope the people of Haiti might one day be as lucky.