We heard on the news last night that there has been a catastrophic earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, which has caused tsunamis – giant tidal waves – in many locations along the Indian Ocean. Thousands of people are known to have lost their lives, and perhaps tens of thousands or more have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Already, the pictures pouring in from Sumatra, Thailand, India and Bangladesh, are haunting me.

When I hear of a disaster of this magnitude, I generally feel as if the bottom has fallen out. I like to think of this earth of ours as a benign, bountiful mother who provides for all our needs, so long as she is respected and cared for. In the face of such a major catastrophic event, I feel helpless, impotent and frustrated. And I feel scared. You often hear people say, “There, but for the grace of God go I”. I’m not convinced that the “grace of God” has anything to do with who is selected as victims of Mother Earth’s wrath. I rather think that it comes down to a matter of who happened to be in the way of an energy wave or a tropical storm at just the right moment.

We live in Los Angeles, so we’re not exactly strangers to earthquakes. The last major earthquake here was in 1994, so, as those cheery little folks from Cal-Tech like to point out, we’re due any time, and they’re not giving us too much reason to hope that we’ll be spared what the scientists like to call “a major event”. (Doesn’t that sound like a movie premiere?) No, the best and the brightest periodically point out that we’re headed for something pretty spectacular.

Well, we’ve got our supply of bottled water, our cell phones, our first aid kits, our auxiliary lighting, our battery operated TV and radios, and our emergency suitcase packed. We’ve figured out the “safest” spot in the house. We’ve “earthquake proofed” what we can by securing objects to the wall and putting special latches on our cupboards to keep the dishes from flying out. All those provisions are of some small comfort to me.

But no matter how well prepared we may be, we cannot prevent the earthquake from coming. I would like to think that when that happens, the world will not turn its back on Southern California. There are always unexpected contingencies that arise at such times. No country, no people, no matter how advanced or affluent they may be, can single-handedly provide for all the crises that arise from a natural disaster.

This planet is our neighborhood. If our neighbors in Indonesia are in trouble, eventually, that is going to spell trouble for all of us. Last night I tried to reach the American Red Cross in order to make a donation for the victims of the earthquake. Apparently, I was not the only one! I tried several times to get through without success. Finally, this morning I went on line and made a donation. It was not huge, but even a small donation can make a difference.

Maybe we can’t control natural disasters, but we are in total control of how we respond to them. If you have a little of the Christmas spirit left, please consider a gift to our global neighborhood.

There are many ways to help. You can call the American Red Cross at 1-800-HELPNOW, or you can donate on line. Their Web address is www.redcross.org. If you would rather give some other way, perhaps you can take up a collection at your school, your church or your place of business. I’m sure there are many organizations that will be setting up drives to help. But this is really much more important than anything else I could have written about this morning.

The Red Cross has a motto: “Together, we can save a life”. And, who knows? Next time, it might be yours or mine.

© 2004, Robin Munson

 Category: Robin's Nest

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