There are too many disasters happening for my heart to handle.
Whenever I hear about some kind of disaster on the news, whether natural or man-made, my heart goes out to those touched by it. To those injured physically or emotionally, to those providing aid and support, to the families that will never be the same. It’s a type of prayer, actually, to put all of it in God’s hands. I realize that I am too inadequate to make a major impact on any of these persons.
While I don’t sit and brood about the occurrences, it does put some weight on my heart. When I do think about a situation, I can feel that weight. It’s one of those good thing/bad thing kind of feelings. Feeling the weight means I recognize the pain of others and desire to help them in some way – that’s the good thing. Empathy, compassion, the desire to give are what keeps this human world working well. On the other hand, sometimes it feels overwhelming – the scope of the tragedy, the immense need in comparison with what I have to give. That’s the bad thing. Feeling inadequate in the face of incredible pain. That’s why I’ve learned to turn it all over to God. Not to take any burden off myself to do what I can do, but to acknowledge that I don’t have to do it all by myself.
Right now, the earthquake in Peru, mine cave-ins in Utah and Indiana, flooding in Texas, bombings in Iraq, draught in the mid-west, the bridge collapse in Minneapolis – those are just the ones in the national news – are starting to make that weight in my heart a bit too heavy. Each one takes up its own small spot and when they start to multiply, as they have been lately, it takes a lot of energy out of you to keep up with it. Too many disasters at one time mean the rest of the world needs to start praying too. And I believe they do. I just wish, like everyone must, that I could do more.
I think perhaps the earthquake in Peru has touched me because I had thought about joining the Peace Corp and going to Peru when I was in high school and college. Plans have a way of changing and it never happened, but I have always had a special place in my heart for Peru.
I guess that’s they way it is for most people. You feel bad for someone’s pain even more if you have a connection – any connection, however tenuous – to the place they live or people who are similar. I will have much more concern for those living near wildfires now that I have been directly impacted by them on a couple of occasions. I have learned more, I understand better and I can imagine their feelings and needs better.
When a natural disaster occurs, like an earthquake, there usually isn’t anyone to “blame” it on. Of course, there is usually plenty of blame and complaint that goes around about inadequate rescue efforts or mistakes made by humans after disaster struck (as with Hurricane Katrina). When it is a disaster where human involvement is more direct – mine cave-ins or bridge collapses – the search for who to blame starts immediately. It always puzzles and amazes me (though at my age, it shouldn’t) that more energy is spent on reporting the “why” the disaster occurred (aka, who’s to blame) instead of the “who, what, when, where” of the incident. I suppose facts don’t fill up air time or take up column space.
The point is that, at that moment, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the “why” doesn’t really matter!! What really matters is what can be done now to take care of those in need. It’s a bit like dropping the milk bottle (I still remember glass milk bottles). You have broken glass and milk all over the floor. Do you worry about who’s fault it was that the bottle fell? Or do you take a deep breath, clean up the mess and then find out what happened? I know some people would actually take the less useful first choice, but I believe the second choice is better personally.
I think that, when numerous disasters occur in a short time, people also get a little nervous. In the cosmic sense, I mean. Do all these things happening one on top of the last have anything to say about the state of our world or the potential of impending Armageddon? I personally don’t have those concerns. If you look at the history of the world, you find that there have always been periods of greater upheaval, always been the same kinds of events occurring. The difference is, I think, that today we have a much larger world population and the technology to make the world seem smaller and smaller. Hundreds of years ago, it would have taken months or more for news of a disaster to reach a distant place. Today, it happens in seconds with computers, camera phones and satellites circling the globe. So you get all those individual events heaped on top of each other in a kind of devilish parfait.
I sometimes choose to take a “day off” from the news. Frankly, it’s all going to happen whether I pay attention to it or not. So on a day I choose, when I’ve had enough, I simply don’t watch the news on TV, listen to it on radio, read it in a newspaper or even read it when I go online. It’s like a little mini-vacation. For a day, I deal with just what is around me personally – good, bad or indifferent. Occasionally I’ll even extend it to a couple of days off. I’m sure you’ve noticed that those stories of pain and destruction don’t go away after just one airing or printing. There are stories bombarding you for days or weeks or more. So you really don’t miss much in a day or two. It’s kind of like watching the “soaps” on daytime TV. If you miss a day or two, no problem. They’ll be taking a week to get through the story like at least and rehashing it in a day or two. You can catch up.
I’m going to take my disasters one at a time, do what I can (pray, donate, volunteer) and rest before I go on to the next one. It’s the only way to stay sane in a crazy world.