Time was when all a man had to do was to take care of himself and his family. If he built a home, filled the fridge, saved for his children’s education and maybe a little something for retirement, he could confidently call himself a success.
The title brings a higher price today.
In San Clemente, we’ve come to share our good fortunes. We give to the Boys and Girls Club, we give to the church. We’re building a park for handicapped kids, we rebuilt Casa Romantica, supported our service clubs and the Historical Society, the homeless and battered mothers. On a broader scale, we gave to the United Way, the March of Dimes, the Negro College Fund. We bought yellow bracelets and pink ribbons for cancer. The list is endless and each of them worthy causes.
But then the natural disasters came. A tsunami hits the beaches of southeast Asia with the force of “biblical proportions”. It was a half a world away but we saw it in our living rooms, the mother who had to let one of her two children fall to a certain death because she couldn’t hold both of them and the branch that she clung to for life. Whole villages were wiped off the map like leaves hosed off a porch. We gave.
Then Katrina, then Rita, all so fresh in our minds. We’ll have the rest of history to argue why it happened, whose to blame? Could we have gotten there sooner? But in between the heroes and villains that play on our nightly news there is ‘we’. We gave.
We could have stayed in our homes, held our children close and watched live the crisis, bowing our heads to say, “There but for the grace of God, go I”. We could have turned away, we could have turned it off. But we gave. In this case the we included over a 150 countries and a few surprises; offers of aid from Castro’s Cuba and the Ugandan warlord that preacher Pat Robertson suggested we “take out”. Quarters from Lemonade stands, trucks from Talega Life Church, we gave.
Before we had even begun to assess the affects of that disaster to our national economy, a 7.6 earthquake hits Pakistan. It is the worst disaster in history, and in a country known for them. Early counts claimed 20,000 to 40,000 dead, twice as many injured, and 2.5 million homeless. Again we gave. Our cash-strapped government pledged $50 million upon hearing the news. And Americans have no monopoly on charity. Asian Development Bank offered $10 million, the European Union, $4.4 million; the governments of Japan, Thailand, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, even Azerbajian, offered cash and assistance. The World Health Organization brought 20,000 Emergency Health Kits, planes came from the United Arab Emirates. Neighboring Afghanistan appears ready to put down its sword and join hands in the salvation of a country that last week was its mortal enemy.
As I write this, it has only been two days since this last disaster, and yet another hurricane heads for the gulf. These events coming one after another might seem too great, the needs, unsurmountable. We can’t expect to do everything, but we have to do something. We can’t do it all, but we will all have to do more.That’s the way it works. It’s like we’re out there on this big giant ship together, running around trying to plug the holes from some unseen cannon fire. We have to put down the arms we’ve drawn against each other long enough to raise the arms that bring helping hands. These crisis, and our reaction to them, should tell us that we are beginning to understand the concept - we’re all in the same boat.
In this time of year, when our efforts for others can often seem a thankless exercise, we can be thankful that, at least for now, we’re on the giving end.
Don R. Kindred