Saturday, September 11, 2010

See No Evil

When we are in Haiti, we take a lot of pictures and use them in our blogs. Some of the pictures are of people who are suffering terribly due to illness or injury. We sometimes send these pictures to people in efforts to find medical care in the U.S. for people who are beyond the help of Haiti's meager system. Such is the case with the man pictured above who likely has cancer of the tongue and has received no treatment for it. All John can do for him is medicate his pain. Sometimes we send pictures to show people the kinds of problems that people in Haiti have. We also give presentations at home and we use the pictures to illustrate the difficulties of life in Haiti. Sometimes, as with the picture above, these pictures are hard to look at.

At least on the surface, people's responses to disturbing pictures fall into one of a few categories: shock and sadness; apathy (what can I do about these problems that have been around as long as human beings themselves); anger (either at the situation or at us for showing them the pictures); or a non-response (perhaps this is a form of overwhelm).

With our 24 hour media beaming images of the latest disaster into our living rooms round the clock it's not surprising that people can become jaded. We're all busy with important things and having our attention grabbed however momentarily by a picture like the one above isn't a pleasant experience. For myself, though, and despite the much greater exposure we have to the world's suffering than we did even 25 years ago, I find seeing pictures like this a necessary experience. For despite my access to information, it's too easy for me to forget.

As I was pondering the above issues earlier in the week, I came across a bumper sticker with the following wisdom:

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.-Albert Schweitzer

So at least for today, we are not spared.

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