A few years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In the weeks and months following, the need was great and many people put their lives on hold to try and help in some way. When some of the refugees came to Charlotte for shelter, I was able to be a part of the team that helped them during the transition time as hundreds of people a day came to shelter at the Charlotte Coliseum. It was a very emotional experience, playing with homeless kids and walking among the cots trying to bring some hope and love to those destitute people. I will never forget it. I was glad I helped, but I knew people who gave much more than I did. They gave of themselves day after day, month after month- as long as they were needed. I was so humbled, watching them.
Today, there are tens of thousands of people dead in Haiti. On the television, on FaceBook, on Twitter, we are seeing pictures of the bodies in the streets and hearing the screams of parents who have lost their children, and children who are suddenly orphans. The suffering is incomprehensible.
I have watched the reactions of people, and (just like after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and the tsunamis) some are consumed with watching every gruesome detail, some are springing into action, and some are just feeling overwhelmed with the magnitude of what has happened and don't know what to do. But I have to say, I am most interested in the ones who just keep on going, living their daily lives as though this has nothing to do with them. Really, not even mentioning it. Are they in denial? Are they waiting for someone to tell them what to do? Or, do they just not care?
Thankfully, we have lots of people who do care. People from all walks of life will help- Democrats and Republicans (except a few opinionated and influential people, sad), Muslims and Christians, even George Bush and Bill Clinton are working together. Actors and musicians will put on concerts and people will buy t-shirts and wear arm bands to show their support. There will be help pouring in from around the world for the next few weeks and before you know it, it will be over, and everything will be back to "normal" again. Until the next time.
Then those of us who did pause for awhile from our daily routine will go back to work and exercise and play and our busy scheduled lives with relief. But what did we learn? Did anything change?
For me, I feel energized during times like this. I love to see people care, and work to help others, and pray, and get out of their comfort zones. I long to see that every day- don't you? And I wonder why we don't. After all, isn't that why we are here? Not to be happy, not to create some great, comfortable life for ourselves- but to be available to love people the way we are commanded to do?
This month, our preschoolers (Sprouts!) are learning to Love God, Love People. Sounds easy, right? But really, we love ourselves. We are the center of our own universe, and truthfully we are taught from an early age to get what we need, be happy, be all we can be, get as much stuff as we can, and do whatever we have to do to get ahead.
Jesus, however, teaches us to put ourselves last, to love others more than ourselves, to take care of widows and orphans, to live simply, give sacrificially, and to love the unlovable.
What if we all just decided to become available each day? Available, just to do what God has put in front of us to do- whether it is visiting an elderly neighbor, volunteering at a soup kitchen, taking a meal to a hurting family, helping tutor kids, or just thinking ahead and having a bag of helpful items (such as socks and gloves and a little packaged food) in our cars to give to the next homeless person we see.
That's the way it's supposed to be, and the world would be a better place.