Day 13: Facing Tragedy

January 13th, 2010

africa“The only thing worthy of you is compassion -invincible, limitless, unconditional.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

A comment on a recent positivity post came to mind today when I was watching the tragic post-earthquake unfold in Haiti. A reader wrote in and said that all the positivity babble in the world won’t change the suffering in the world one iota. The positivity quest is no different than Dale Carnegie or any of the more recent new age “secrets.” I thought about this as I watched the videos of people whose world has come undone again. Haiti, still recovering from massive tropical storms has one of the lowest standards of living in the world and has struggled with enduring political instability. This earthquake has effectively destroyed what little infrastructure that was holding them together.

In the face of this kind of tragedy I wonder if the comments by my reader are true. I question not only my ability to be positive but my right to pursue such a goal in the midst of so much pain and suffering. I wonder how I could be so fortunate to be able to pursue positivity when so many people on the planet are struggling with basic survival needs. I get pulled into despair and overwhelmed by both a need to do more and an inability to know where to start. I don’t want to turn away from the massive suffering in the world and I fear being swallowed up by it.

The answer to my questions comes quickly and deeply when a dear friend shares this poem by Thich Nhat Hanh with me today:

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The only thing worthy of you is compassion -

invincible, limitless, unconditional.

Hatred will never let you face

the beast in man.

One day, when you face this beast alone

with your courage intact, your eyes kind,

untroubled

(even as no one sees them),

out of your smile

will bloom a flower.

And those who love you

will behold you

across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

Alone again,

I will go on with bent head,

knowing that love has become eternal.

On the long, rough road

the sun and moon will continue to shine.

The best I have to give comes through love in me. Real love, when you don’t need anything back is grace, the place that springs hope and compassion. I consider what I can give to this tragedy and realize again that my way will be made clear with a positive mind and an open heart.

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