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When Devastation Meets Charity

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Patricia A. Smith     Permalink
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Here we go again. Sociology 101. An earthquake of epic proportions has devastated the poorest country in the western hemisphere. As if Haiti wasn't suffering enough already. The story is still unfolding; the damage and loss of life is going to be massive and it's still too early to tell what the casualties will be. A few weeks or months from now, we will return to business as usual and our regularly scheduled programming.

This morning, I started putting together piles of clothing to donate to the Red Cross. I have no idea that anything I offer will actually end up in Haiti; I realize that my knee-jerk reaction to do "something" (anything) in the face of this disaster is part of my own sensitivity to humanity and even more importantly, my understanding of my own insignificance here on this planet we share. There is little more I can do or offer Haiti to make a difference, but I have to at least try. I guess it's just luck of the draw to have been born here and not there.

What strikes me is that intellectually, I know that there are millions of people in America that could benefit from the clothing I have just gathered and bagged. Our current economic disaster right here on our own soil somehow never prompted (or prodded?) me enough to think about that. I can't begin to fathom how many here in the United States would be more than grateful for those sweaters, jeans, shoes, t-shirts, shorts, dresses and skirts. Maybe I wasn't willing to think about that. Until this morning, most of these items were safely stowed in my closets or chests of drawers and had been untouched and unworn for many, many months. I was holding on to them for no reason at all. All of those unused items could have been helping someone here, in America, all that time. There are plenty of undocumented disasters unfolding all across the country. The housing collapse just doesn't include the physical rubble.

Maybe we can't (or won't) allow ourselves to see that utter devastation has a habit of tricking us into temporarily thinking about our fellow man before we go back to thinking mostly about ourselves. Just how devastating does life have to become for us to not only react, but actually take action? Does 80% of our population have to lose their homes, jobs and health care for us to respond to our own fellow citizens? How much is enough or harsh enough circumstances and what is the threshold for ignoring or responding to them appropriately when it's going on every single day in the USA? I'll leave that for the sociologists to study and decide.

I can't save the world. Hell, sometimes, I can barely save myself. But I can make a difference, even if it is small one. Making that choice to take action and put together bags of clothing is a start. You can too. Here and elsewhere. Do it. For humanity.


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Patricia A. Smith is a writer and artist (and sometimes both at the same time). A former columnist, restaurant critic and cruise line executive, Smith has lived in London, Greece, Denmark, Hungary, Egypt, Costa Rica and France. She returned (more...)

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