I heard an amazing report on the radio today. On the one-month anniversary of the earthquake, the people of Haiti have declared a three-day period of mourning. During this time, all those who are physically able to will fast, eating nothing but bread and water for three days.
A three-day fast is serious deprivation. And to think of Haitians, who have already been deprived of just about everything, willingly engaging in this further sacrifice is unspeakably sad and touching.
I wonder what the meaning of this gesture on the part of an entire nation can be. Is it the expression of a sorrow so great that it can only be demonstrated through self-inflicted suffering, like beating one\’s breast or leaping into a funeral pyre? Is it a sacrifice on behalf of the dead, in hopes of ensuring their eternal salvation? Is it an offering to the gods, in hopes that they will spare the nation from fresh disasters?
And can you conceive of Americans reacting in such a way to a national tragedy? Did anything like this go on after 9/11, or after Katrina? Certainly many people made considerable sacrifices to help others in need–maybe even skipped meals to have money to contribute to charity. But that, worthy as it is, is a practical approach, whereas the Haitian fast seems gratuitous, lyrical, a manifestation at the purest physical level of an unimaginable sorrow.
It\’s enough to make one weep all over again.