Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Fall of the Sparrow

Considering why each life matters ...

This past First Day, otherwise known as Sunday, our Miami Friends meeting was graced by the father and brother of Christa Brelsford, the American woman from Anchorage who was one of the survivors pulled from the wreckage of the earthquake in Haiti.

The meeting was a deep and emotional one. Among other messages, Taylor Brelsford, Christa's father, declared the miracle that it was for him and his son to be able to worship with us, and that compared to the life of his daughter the loss of a leg was "nothing." This echoed Christa's own sentiments as expressed in the CBS news story and video, and I'm sure we can all agree. When we are confronted with the difference between life and death, often so tenuous, it becomes very clear what is the important, essential thing. Beside it, all other concerns pale to insignificance. And faced with the loss of so many lives, we naturally celebrate each one that can be preserved.

Christa's brother, Julian, who was volunteering with her in a literacy program for adults and children, also expressed his heartfelt joy at life, even in the face of grief, and led us in the spontaneous singing of a hymn. This is a rare occurrence in meetings like ours, and when it happens it feels very powerful -- much less like reading from a book, and more like the expression of birdsong that greets the morning sun.

Julian, who was fortunate to receive only minor injuries himself, is mindful of the many in Haiti who perished or who are not getting the medical attention they need. He intends to return, and hopes for an outpouring of assistance from around the world, which seems to be materializing.

During the meeting I found my own thoughts wandering back to a small incident of the previous week. It may sound funny in the face so many human casualties, but I kept remembering how on my way to work one morning I had noticed some of the small lizards that abound here, temporarily immobilized by the cold weather, lying on the sidewalk. Positioned like that on the concrete, they were ready to be warmed back to life by the action of the sun. I stepped carefully around them and wished them well, only to find at least one of them flattened when I returned at the end of the day. Whether it was done with intentional cruelty or simple carelessness, some passer-by had simply snuffed the life from the tiny insignificant creature.

Aren't our own lives like that? We spend our time planning and building, then the earth moves beneath us and everything comes toppling down.

It is said that God notes the fall of the sparrow -- meaning each and every one of them. Even those of us who may not believe in a personal or personified Deity can still conceive of the idea that each life, no matter how small, is worthy of note, and that in some way each is accounted for in the great ledger book of existence.

If I could notice and feel a pang of regret over the demise of a creature so small, then how much more must each of those human victims of calamity matter to that Spirit of which we are all a part? If such a small life is worthy of notice, then surely, as tens of thousands of nameless men, women, and children are interred in mass graves, so must the life of each one be noted with sorrow in its end. And equally so, we should note the lives of those who are still with us, rejoice with them, and give them the care and respect that each one deserves by the simply virtue of being alive.

You can learn more about the work of Haiti Partners through their website at http://www.haitipartners.org/ where you can also make donations for earthquake relief and longer term community building in Haiti.


  1. Anonymous2:00 PM

    Steve, this is wonderfully expressive, and I've posted it to my Facebook page for whatever additional views that may bring. Thank you so much for making it available. Peacefully, Warren

  2. Thanks for sharing your gifts so beautifully wrapped. And thanks to Warren for bringing it to my attention....Kathy