Hurricanes, earthquakes, wars — what are our reservoirs of humanity?
Images on the evening news in recent weeks, have been gut-wrenchingly sad.
When Hurricane Harvey roared into Texas, flooding much of Houston and surrounding communities, my heart was broken to see refugees huddled in horror in shelters and evacuation centers.
Then just days later I was overcome with compassion for those in the path of Hurricane Irma, especially those in the Florida Keys, Naples, Marco Island, and Jacksonville which were devastated by the Cat 4 blast and massive flooding.
And, now my heart is being broken once again with stories of the aftermath of the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that has leveled buildings and schools in Mexico City and I pray for the souls of the 225 (to date) men women and school children killed. Of course, I ache for the victims of Hurricane Maria, the Cat 5 storm that has pummeled Puerto Rico, Dominica, Turks, and Caicos and other islands throughout the Caribbean.
It’s heart-break over and over again. I’m not sure how much more sorrow my old ticker can take. The daily refrain from the broadcast media seems to have become, “More heart-break ahead, details at 10.”
Of course, those are the array of recent natural disasters. We are all victims of man-made disasters as well. In a scene becoming more and more common as the war in Afghanistan continues to rage, a mother dressed entirely in black is presented a neatly-folded American flag by the captain of a Marine Corps honor guard presiding at a military funeral for her only son who was killed by a road-side bomb on a patrol in Nangarhar Province. On the playing of the Navy Hymn, followed by Taps, my tears began to flow.
And then, the endless suicide bombings and terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and spilling over into Europe. Maybe we have become a bit jaded by the constant barrage of senseless carnage, but every news report on the latest inhumanity is another cause for heartbreak and sadness.
It’s been a hard, tragic few weeks for all of us. Our compassion reservoirs have been sorely tested. Private tragedies and those of global significance have left us in stunned disbelief. Our hearts have been broken over and over again. We are drained, exhausted by the endless suffering and despair. Charitable organizations talk about “donor fatigue” setting in. But, we can’t afford to get complacent, there’s so much more to be done.
Just consider the immensely sad photo of a starving, emaciated Ethiopian child featured in a public service message for a major relief organization. He sits staring blankly through hollow eyes, his arms and legs are skin-and-bones thin from starvation. The poignant copy beneath the moving photo reads:
If he doesn’t eat today, he may die.
If you don’t eat today, he might live.
It’s a powerful message for the campaign against world hunger. The copy sounds a bit like a mother’s threadbare refrain when the kids didn’t clean their plates: “Just think about those starving kids in China!” But, this message is chillingly real, not a ploy to get a child to eat everything on his plate.
We are a global community, linked by our economies, by internet and satellite communication systems, and, most importantly, by our humanity and compassion for one another. We are a generous people who inhabit this “Blue Marble,” planet Earth. We respond quickly and generously to those in need. Hopefully, we won’t forget those in need when the fickle media spotlight moves on to the next tragedy.
A refrain from the classic 17th century John Donne meditation, “No man is an island,” echoed through my mind as I tried to come to grips with the serial catastrophes of recent weeks:
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and, therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
We are numbed by the monumental pain and suffering we have seen here at home and around the world. We know the bell tolls for all those around the world who have been touched by disaster.
May God bless all our fellow Earthlings during these enormously difficult times.