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Four Years at the Mount

I'm Grateful For...


Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(11/2016) This past month, Hurricane Matthew hit and crushed the Caribbean and a few states in the South. The overall death toll is currently estimated to have exceeded 580 people, the majority of whom were Haitian. The death toll is an estimate because there is not accurate reporting. Some reports claim over one thousand, while others claim 300-400. Some officials believe numbers have been inflated in a search for Foreign Aid, while others believe the deaths have been under-reported because of minimal accountability and post-hurricane-related deaths such as cholera, destruction of crops, and limited to non-existent access to food. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes, an estimated 1.4 million people are in desperate need of food, babies were delivered in knee-deep waters, families are searching for missing loved ones, and children are at an increased risk for exploitation and trafficking.

Aid has been sent from around the world, but the international response seems minimal in comparison to other tragic events over the past few years. Without turning this into a social commentary, I have to ask: why isnít this an international tragedy? Why is the race against time for peoplesí livelihoods not flooding my Facebook newsfeed or my email inbox? I do not know; I do not know what is being done, and frankly, I could not do much about it even if I did know. So, before you get alarmed or turned off by my spiel of disheartening statistics, know this is going somewhere, I promise.

I spent the first ten days after the hurricane frustrated by the fact that nobody seemed to be doing anything. Frustrated by the fact that the initial few deaths in America seemed to matter so much more than the estimated thousand elsewhere. Now, the death toll has risen in both Haiti and America. Lives are being taken and deaths are being reported to this very moment. And still, the reaction is underwhelming. Again, I remained frustrated. What was being done? Iím sure something was. Iím sure as a 21 year-old, reasonably informed citizen I must be missing some information. Iím sure that there was more than one plane of aid sent in the first week, but what shocks me is not the government nor the NGO response. I am not qualified nor prepared to speak on either of those fronts. What shocked me was the general lack of care that I witnessed in all daily interactions. Numbers were slowly revealed, and emails were not forwarded. Still, I remained frustrated. What is going on here?

I expressed my frustration to a few people and received one response that stood out. Being frustrated will do nothing, it will produce no fruit. This is an opportunity in so many ways. It is an opportunity to become more educated, to pray, to reach out, and to recognize the dignity and simultaneous desperation that so many people are experiencing every second as they recover, whether from loss of home, food source, parent, child, belongings, and more. There is an incredible need and within that an incredible opportunity presents itself to us.

Okay, pause, I promise this is related to the theme I wrote at the top of this page.

"Mount students share experiences, relationships, and more, that they are grateful for in a completely new way this Thanksgiving season."

I promise, once more, that I am not thankful in any way that so many people are suffering so intensely right now.

I am thankful, though, for the people who are recognizing the human dignity of all victims and survivors. I am thankful for the people who are learning from this disaster, thankful for the people who have taught me to understand that a disaster anywhere is a disaster, thankful for the opportunity this presents for the world, and the international community, to come to the aid of people in need, and thankful for the conversation this creates in classrooms, offices, and more with the knowledge that conversation sparks response.

In those ten days that I spent in frustration, I was not thankful. I wish I could say that I was, that I immediately understood that I should focus on whatís next or that I grasped that concept of thanks, but I didnít. People were suffering, they still are, in two countries. I wondered if we, having the resources and response that we do in America, lacked the perspective to understand how lucky we are. I wondered, again, what was being done. I couldnít find any reason to be thankful, and I wasnít looking for one.

We are lucky, and we have so much to be thankful for. We have a new opportunity to engage in a new and productive way in the international community. We, as a country, have news systems, evacuation plans, cars and public transportation, generators, paved roads, community centers, insurance, alert systems, and so much more that kept the damage in our country to a minimum. Because of this, we are lucky enough to be in a position to engage in outreach, to increase global awareness, to focus efforts on recovery for ourselves and others, and more. We have the time, because of the systems we have in place, to pray, learn, educate, and find a fruitful way to enhance relief efforts and awareness. This is all actually an overwhelming amount for which to be thankful, I just didnít see it at first.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary