I was recently talking to a friend and noted that once something happens to you, it can ever un-happen. We can forget things, time can heal certain pains but there is no return to a place before it happened.
We all have an it in our life. It can be a parent lost,a dysfunctional childhood, a tragedy, a great failure or a great regret.
One minute life is at it was and then there is only life as it will always be from the moment it happened.
This morning, I read this article about Haiti. I always feel the worst for the children. They have their whole lives in front of them. They will remember those bodies, these losses, and the pain of struggling to forget for the rest of their long lives. Some will be stronger for it. They will write about it in their admissions essays to Yale or Harvard. They will be applauded for their ability to overcome adversity but they will always feel like frauds. They will be haunted by the guilt of their success and they will always walk with the ghost of this event behind them.
Others will not be so lucky. They will be forgotten when the initial outpouring of international attention fades away. They will grow up in orphanages, on the streets and in the homes of relatives who are struggling to feed the mouths they are already responsible for. Their aunts and uncles will see their lost brothers and sisters in these children. Over time, the world will forget about them entirely, but they will be left with the great curse of never being able to forget.
There is a story in many traditions in which a man spreads vicious gossip about a leader in the community. Repentant, he goes to the leader and begs for forgiveness for all the hardship that has befallen the leader and says he will do anything to right his wrong. The leader tells him to go home, take a feather pillow and slice it with a knife so the feathers are carried away by the wind. Although he finds the request strange, the man complies and returns to the leader the next day to convey the news. The leader then tells him to go back and collect all the feathers and return them to the pillow. He tells the man that just as he will never be able to collect all the feathers, he can never right his wrong whose consequences can never be measured.
In this situation, our inaction can be the it for many people’s lives. If we are in a position to send money, then we should send money. If we are able to travel there and hep with our skill sets, then we should travel there and help. If we have the capacity to adopt one of these children, then we should welcome them into our homes.
Once something is done, it can never be undone. All the good intentions in the world can not erase the reality of it’s passing. We can’t ever go back to a place where we are fully innocent. We can never stop the tides of time from hurting and challenging. But we can take care of our own actions. We can do our best to not be the agent in the world that hurts and destroys others. With all life’s uncertainties, I find great comfort in knowing that we still have a choice. “There is a way to be good again.”