NOTE: Only one short year ago, we were stunned by the impact of nature’s power, as an earthquake leveled much of the urban landscape in Haiti- a country whose infrastructure was woefully unprepared. Now, we look at Japan – a country that is one of the world’s most sophisticated in terms of building codes and engineering. And yet, we are asking similar questions.
Even though the locations, cultures and circumstances are different – there are clear parallels. We are all human. We all share the same planet. Our lives are all equally fragile.
It’s in this spirit that I am reposting the following message – written in January 2010. And in this spirit, I hope we will all do what we can to support our brothers and sisters across the Pacific. If these events teach us anything, it is that we are truly part of the same, small global family of man.
The geological magnitude of this event is overwhelming enough. But it’s so much more than that. It’s also a horribly harsh reminder that human life is fragile and fleeting. That’s a lesson we all seem hardwired to ignore – until moments like these literally shake us to our core.
It’s stunning to see how, in the blink of an eye, the earth can so randomly shatter even the most humble infrastructure. And it’s overwhelming to imagine the human toll:
- First with lives lost in the rubble,
- Then among those struggling to overcome injury,
- And finally, among those who will not be able to escape disease.
As with other disasters, this will no doubt send psychological and spiritual shock waves throughout the world for a long time to come. And the primary question people will ask is, “Why?”
God – What Kind of Wakeup Call Is This?
At moments like this, it’s natural to look to a higher power – for strength, for comfort, for answers. And yet at times like this, rhetorical questions seem far more prevalent than answers. Even among believers.
Pat Robertson? Not a Clue
The dust hasn’t even settled. So who can explain why someone like Pat Robertson would claim that Haitians deserve to suffer, as a result of making a “pact with the devil”? Worse yet, who can explain why broadcast media would bother giving airtime to such an unhelpful message? I’m horrified to think that this judgmental rant distracted us all from what matters most right now. Worse, it supplied ammo to those who enjoy portraying Christians as self-righteous pinheads.
So Then, What Does it Mean?
None of us can possibly know why things like this happen. But there’s one thing we DO know for sure. Disasters are part of the human condition. They have been throughout recorded history. They apparently go with the territory.
Sometimes those disasters are natural – as with Haiti. Sometimes they’re man-made – as with the war in Afghanistan. Regardless, they force us to face a disturbing fact. When disasters strike the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet, the devastation is far more profound.
Think about it. The poorest victims are always hurt most deeply. On one hand, those of us in developed nations have more to lose. On the other hand, our relative wealth affords us a far more resilient “buffer.”
Meanwhile, even in the best of times, some people barely subsist. So, when circumstances beyond their control yank their already threadbare rugs from beneath them, the poor and the weak fall into the abyss far more easily.
Perhaps the best question isn’t “Why Haiti” at all. Perhaps a more appropriate question is this:
Why haven’t those of us in “developed” nations paid better attention to Haiti until now? Why does it take an earthquake of epic proportions for us to notice their need? And in Afghanistan, why does it take a war that costs dearly in U.S. troops and treasure for us to look in that direction?
Truly – how many of us even knew where Afghanistan or Haiti were until the U.S. could no longer look away? Even today, how many of us know even basic facts about the geography or culture of these nations?
Prayers Help – But What Else Can we Do?
Especially for those of us who believe in God – do you wonder if perhaps He’s trying to send us a message? Maybe He wants to remind us that we have a responsibility – not just for ourselves, but also for the welfare of those who are less fortunate. After all, we aren’t that far removed from one another.
We all look up at the same sky. We all want a safe place to lay our heads at night. We all wish that our children will grow up healthy and strong. We all share the same planet.
The poorest inhabitants of Haiti and Afghanistan didn’t ask for the added burden of natural or manmade disasters. So let’s not leave them to sort it out in isolation.
Early relief efforts seem to be making a small dent in the chaos following Haiti’s quake. Perhaps if we dig just a little bit deeper as we send donations to aid organizations (see list below), we can help improve their odds?
Perhaps, bit-by-bit, assistance can make a constructive impact. And perhaps we can move beyond “why” – and instead focus on “what next”?
Here’s a “short list” of world-class relief organizations that would benefit from support. All are top-rated by charity watchdogs. I encourage you to share what you’re able. As I’ve seen first-hand in Afghanistan, even the smallest donation can make a big difference.
- AmeriCares – www.americares.org
- Care – www.care.org
- Catholic Relief Services – www.crs.org
- Clinton Bush Haiti Fund – www.clintonbushhaitifund.org
- Compassion International – www.compassion.com
- Doctors Without Borders – www.doctorswithoutborders.org
- Habitat For Humanity – www.habitat.org
- The Red Cross – www.redcross.org
- World Concern (Christa) – www.worldconcern.org
A more comprehensive list of relief resources is at CNN.
And to be sure your contributions go where you intend, check out CharityWatch’s list of most efficient non-profit organizations.