Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday's Words for January 20, 2010

How do we, living here in our comfortable lives in North America, even wrap our heads around the extent of the devastation that has stricken Haiti in the last week?

We try to process the information in terms of ourselves; that is a normal human reaction. And we get stuck, because the way things have happened in that beleaguered country couldn’t happen here in quite the same way.

We take for granted our strict building codes, our interwoven social services that are provided by the different levels of our governments (local, state/provincial, and national). We know, because we’ve seen it, that for the most part when earthquakes or disasters strike in our part of the world, rescue and recovery efforts are massive, non-stop, and almost instantaneous. More than one week post-event, all who could be rescued would be, bodies would have been recovered, and only building debris would be left.

In the meantime, any persons made homeless would be temporarily housed in whatever large facility was available, and while there would be discomfort and restlessness, for the most part, people would be fed and their medical and other basic needs seen to.

In cases where relief hasn’t been immediate and organized—as happened with Hurricane Katrina—there’s such an outcry of outrage, that changes are made immediately. It’s not so much that we expect a high degree of efficiency as we demand it.

This past week, we at our television screens at images of the elderly languishing in the streets outside their demolished nursing homes, and we can’t quite get it. We see children, little more than babies, really, finally extricated from the rubble, and then watch them die, just when we thought they might live. We see rejoicing, and heartbreak, hourly.

We ask ourselves, because we can’t not, how is it that this is happening in the advanced year of 2010? How is it that an island within spitting distance of our nations can hold a country so ill-equipped to deal with the sometimes harsh realities of life?

The answers are as varied and complicated as are the minds who conjure them. Certainly, the lack of a well-structured, ethical society is one cause. If everyone is out for themselves, only interested in what they can stuff into their own pockets, then no one is seeing to the common good, and it only is logical that eventually things fall apart.

Another contributing factor, and a large one in my estimation, is the lack of education in that country—hell, on the entire island of Hispaniola. Free learning is another precious possession we often take for granted here. We don’t fully appreciate what a difference it makes in the quality of life for all the people when a certain level of education is mandatory, and a higher level is encouraged and rewarded.

One thing that is plain, and a source of encouragement is the trend I think began with the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004: the great willingness on the part of the human consciousness to help. I credit the Internet and social networking to a good degree; you can’t navigate anywhere on the Internet without seeing ways to donate to help with earthquake relief.

Of course, and sadly, human nature also has a negative side, and at this time there will be con artists ready and willing to help those of guilty conscience and who will then gladly pocket your well intended donations. If I may advise, keep your donations to agencies that have a history of selfless service, such as The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and Unicef.

2004 showed us that if each of us gave but a little bit, together we can have a massive impact to the good.

We can give money, and we can all pray. And as we watch the daily developments of miracles and tragedies, we can hope that in this great moment in history, we somehow move just a little bit closer to understanding that we are only as rich as the poorest of us.


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