November 7, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

E-mail can awaken sensitivity toward challenges

Shirley Vogler MeisterMost of the time, I am leery of Internet spam—the junk mail that comes to the computer daily, often in droves.

Now and then, however, something that seems like spam turns out to be significant.

One that I won’t forget contained color photographs of people in faraway lands. Some photos reinforced how blessed most of us are, but some photos reminded me that the places where we feel most safe can be daunting, too.

For instance, one photo depicted two men up to their shoulders in floodwater, with one of them holding a plastic basin on his head—and in the basin sat a baby. Flooding earlier this year in Indiana and other states caused similar tragic scenes.

Other photographs showed a child on his knees, begging … a soldier with his dog, sitting on barren land, pensively reading a letter … a child on a bike in snow and an elderly, one-legged man hobbling with a crude crutch while holding onto the metal over the back wheel with one hand … a young man with a bicycle pulling eight gigantic rolls of recyclable material … families tenuously crossing a primitive bridge made mostly of rope and sporadic wooden slats—which reminded me of the amazing story The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder—and more amazing pictures.

Someone claimed that this was voted the “best e-mail of the year.” I wondered about that source, knowing that the Internet can be questionable about attributions.

Yet, photographs supposedly never lie, although one must say that with caution because photo manipulation is, unfortunately now, standard fare. My husband, Paul, who has been a photographer since high school, is wary of such “artistic license.”

So what are we to believe when spam with an excellent message comes into our lives through our computer? I believe that we must glean what is good and take it to heart. This spam’s messages were good. They included:

  • “Complain less and give of ourselves more.”
  • “Modern ‘advanced’ societies ignore or forget the other two-thirds of people in the world.”
  • “Be grateful for what we have and be sensitive to those who need help.”

What’s a person to do? Poverty and suffering—physically, mentally and spiritually—exists in nearly every community although we, as individuals, might not be aware of what is happening.

Sometimes I don’t want to know, but I still observe, listen, comment and help whenever possible, doing whatever seems appropriate.

Sometimes I use only words and heartfelt inner emotion—through a note or a phone call or even an e-mail.

Always, I pray. Always, before receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, I ask for help for particular persons or situations.

Prayer costs nothing, yet spreads far and wide, no matter where the specific needs are.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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