I have had a very slow day.
Perhaps it's the knowledge that I'm not in work for the next three days that makes each hour that I have been there tick along with agonising slowness. Despite myself, there is something more than that, though. I'm a great reader of news in all shapes and sizes, and it will have escaped no-one's attention that the news for the last few days has been focusing on the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and this news inspires a little more attention from me than most.
Bear with me here. I'm keen that this blog will be a positive and light-hearted look at the world, rather than another means to vent my myriad frustrations about things. But this quake has been described by UN officials as the worst humanitarian disaster that they have ever had to deal with, and it is a subject that touches me for a good reason.
I am my local trade union branch's International Officer (I especially love the ironic way that I type the capitals there.) It would be fantastic if this was a highly responsible post that resulted in James Bond-style adventure and plenty of exotic foreign travel, but in practise, it means that I get my own in-tray which is filled monthly with letters from different charities from around the world. It falls to me to research these charities, pick out the worthiest and then attempt to persuade a large number of sceptical union stewards to make small donations towards them from a central fund.
Make no mistake, it's a worthy job and I enjoy it very much. I may not get paid, but I constantly learn new things and I like to think that in some small ways, the money that we donate makes a difference. But as I crawled through my day job today with my usual listlessness, it occurred to me that with each passing minute, the chance of finding live people under the rubble of Port-au-Prince dwindles. An incident of this magnitude really brings home our impotence in the face of the world, and in that context, no donation of money really cuts to the quick for me.
I know that conducting rescues in itself is a highly skilled job, that it requires specialised equipment and training or the would-be rescuer is at best a hindrance and at worst a danger to themselves and others. But this isn't a rational feeling, one that reflects common sense and good judgement. I joined my trade union for no more reason than I wanted to help people, and I am feeling that same way now as I look at the pictures on the TV. I may have no skills, but I really want to dig.