I didn’t think much of the earthquake, to be honest. And I’m going to be very honest about this.
The first time I experienced a tremor, I was sitting in my upstairs room in a rural village in the Ecuadorian sierra. It was kinda cool – cool enough to write home and tell people I’d just been in an earthquake. But it was also disappointing because I expected more of a kick out of it.
So when all my Ecuadorian friends started using the “I’m okay” function on Facebook my first thought was that being able to register your continuing existence on the planet borders on overkill. I’m sorry that even crossed my mind. Raised in the stability of Canberra, Australia, I guess 7.8 on the Richter scale meant nothing to me.
Until I saw the death toll, saw it climb.
Saw #PrayForEcuador sprinkled throughout my feed.
Saw the pictures and the headlines.
Then, and only then, did I let it hit me.
This is a big deal. This means something to me.
Sometimes I feel like a fraud when people say I’m an admirably passionate and compassionate person. Really? I don’t have a pet and don’t want one. I don’t (usually) cry at the movies. I only holler for Real Madrid and I don’t clap for Jesus.
It took me a second cycle through my Facebook news feed, the morning after, to feel anything about the earthquake in Ecuador. How can that be? This is the country that had me for two years. I love this place and I love her people. And yet.
I am constantly having to break through the ice to find my heart.
Perhaps I’m being unfair on myself. The truth is I am simultaneously overwhelmed by and desensitised to everything that is wrong with the world. Both forces are crippling and I try to strike the balance that allows the most freedom. I bet I’m not the only one.
My passion and compassion look like this: spending every second Friday night doing craft with girls from troubled families; campaigning for our government to give a little bit more to help the 1.4 billion people in the world surviving on less than $1.25 a day; living amongst Ecuadorians and forming friendships with their young people; writing the stories of Bolivian children abused in the basest way by those closest to them.
What I’m trying to say is my heart is found in my actions.
When this most recent earthquake hit just off the coast of Ecuador, I was on the other side of the Pacific Ocean not really doing anything.
What could I possibly do?
Say something nice on Facebook? Done.
Write? Doing it.
We say that words are empty without action to back them up; we contrast words and action. As a kid, I wrote poetry and stories for fun. Later, it was a channel for my teenage angst.
As an adult, I still use words for fun and to process my feelings. But nowadays, I also write to connect, to build a bridge. Sometimes I write to comfort and stand with you where you are. Other times I write to inform and educate and, ultimately, provoke you to action.
So if you’re reading this, pray with me, pray with us. Please.
And if you’re not a praying person, find your action. An action that declares that you are neither overwhelmed nor desensitised to what is happening in Ecuador.
This is my action, writing this. It’s not much, but I promise you I reached into my heart to get these words to you.