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Ann Cannon: Remember tragedies but count blessings

And still the stories come out of Haiti, reminding us that Haiti, in fact, is still there … that Haiti and its devastation will still be there for months to come.

This simple fact makes me feel so … helpless. Useless. Ineffectual.

What can someone like me — a middle-class, middle-aged woman living along the Wasatch Front — do in the wake of such a thorough and ongoing disaster?

Send money, for one thing. Then send money again. Pray. Reject the spiritual meanness of misguided men like Pat Robertson.

Remember the people there — even as our daily lives go on here.

The remembering part can be complicated though, as the experience I had the other day demonstrates.

I was sitting in the lobby of the downtown library when the table next to me was commandeered by a group of young adults. They were ragged and rough, and in that thin, winter sunlight, they appeared to be lost on so many levels — lost to homes, to health, to hope.

Watching them made me think of someone I love who feels lost to me right now, and, as always, a familiar sadness settled in my bones — only this time my melancholy made me feel guilty.

So I berated myself.

How can you be sad? What do you have to be sad about?

I ticked off my blessings.

You know where each member of your family is. You have a home that hasn't been reduced to rubble. You have easy access to clean water and plenty of food. YOU do not have the right to feel sad.

Not when there's Haiti. At least that's what the voice inside my head said.

But I couldn't help myself as I listened to the people at the next table erupt in noisy laughter. I still felt sad.

I firmly believe that cultivating a grateful heart is one of the most important things we can do in this life.

The person who actively searches for blessings finds them — a fact I was reminded of when I visited the Arlington Hills care facility last week.

One of the long-term residents there, a woman in a wheelchair, thanked heaven for another day of life because, as she said, the world is such a beautiful place.

I have thought of that straightforward prayer every single morning this week as I've walked through the Avenues and watched the morning sun turn sky and mountain stone a silvery pink.

She's right.

The world IS such a beautiful place.

But still.

There's this sense we have that someone else's tragedy should somehow obliterate our own problems.

It doesn't work like that, though.

No matter how many good things we have in our lives, we also have our sorrows — some of them large and long-lasting, others small and fleeting. And it's OK to acknowledge that reality without carrying the added burden of feeling guilty about it.

Or at least that's what I think.

Meanwhile, here's a promise for Haiti.

We will not forget.