When I was a kid, and things like this horrible earthquake in Haiti would happen, I would get really mad at God.
Because I used to think God was a kindly old man with a long white beard who lived up in heaven (just like they told us in Sunday school), and who, like me when I played with my Barbies, looked out for us and protected us and got us new dresses or, if we prayed hard enough, a date with Ken.
Playing Barbies? Or playing God?
But as I got older, I began to wonder why God would let such terrible things happen to people, things I would NEVER let happen to my Barbies.
The more I thought about it, the further I plunged into existential despair (at age 12)….
…and the more others told me human misery was all part of God’s plan, and that I just needed to have faith in it.
This, however, was improving impossible for me.
Finally, in 8th grade, I got sent to the principal’s office for my lack of faith (it was Catholic school).
Fortunately the principal was Sister G, who turned out to be kind of a badass.
Sister G told me it was totally normal to question things…even God. She told me to keep on asking questions until I found the answers I was looking for. It was entirely possible, she said, that I was right. For all we knew, God might exist only in our hearts.
This made me feel a little better. Plus, she didn’t give me detention.
This episode got a little sappy, but it had some really fun moments, like when Michele Trachtenberg busted out some figure skating moves….
(I was like, “Oh my God, she learned that during Ice Princess! A movie I wrote! Except that they didn’t use a single concept or line from my script, apart from the Zamboni!”)
But what got me was the scene where Nurse Veronica told Michael Ian Black about how while she was serving in Iraq, she saw horrible things that made her, too, lose faith in the idea of a kindly old bearded God who Had a Plan.
Now Nurse Veronica only had faith in people….
To her, God was in the selflessness shown by a young American soldier she’d operated on who’d given his own life to save the life of another. God was in his heart.
I couldn’t believe it! Sister G’s words, echoed by Nurse Veronica!
Nurse Veronica, who looks a lot like my friend Libby
Could it be that Sister G and Nurse Veronica are right? That maybe God isn’t a bearded old man sitting up in heaven, controlling our destinies the way little girls control their Barbie dolls, selecting who will live and who will die and who will go out with Ken?
What I do know is, there’s nothing you or I or anyone else can do stop terrible things like the earthquake in Haiti from happening.
But we can help prevent the suffering it’s causing.
Which makes all of us a little God-like, in my opinion.
And that’s something I definitely want to put my faith in.
Brian Russell is the husband of my friend Lisa, who is also one of my many former bosses from NYU. You know of him because he films and edits the Read Our Lips segments Michele Jaffe and I post here and on YouTube.
Brian has been doing volunteer relief work in Haiti for some time. And he takes his whole family down there with him at least once a year to help.
I emailed him as soon as I heard about the earthquake to find out where I could make a donation. This was his response:
I’ve received an overwhelming number of emails and calls of support today, and many have asked where they can donate money following the devastating earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti.
Fortunately, the boys I worked with are safe. They are based in Cap Haitien, which is about 200 miles north of the earthquake.
For those of you who would like to make a donation, the organization below is a worthwhile organization (Hands Together has received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities, every fiscal year since 2006, indicating that it outperforms most charities in America in its efforts to operate in the most fiscally responsible way possible) based in Port au Prince.
The money you donate will go directly to people who already had so little, and now have lost what little they had.
Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.
PO Box 80985
Springfield, MA 01138