February 5, 2010

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Helping those on ‘shaky ground’

David SilerI have never literally felt the Earth shift beneath me. I can only slightly imagine the fear that must be accompanied by the ground rumbling and shaking violently enough to crumble the foundations that we all come to count on.

One foundation that can never be destroyed is human generosity. The outpouring of support from all over the world for the relatively tiny island nation of Haiti has been astounding.

Aid groups that have already been working in Haiti for many years cannot handle the offers for help and supplies.

We vividly witnessed the chaos following Hurricane Katrina in our own country, but everything is complicated many times over in a country already desperately poor with very little infrastructure.

There are so many lessons that can be learned in times of major crisis. Just like in our personal lives, where we find out what we are made of when we are tested under extreme pressure, we have a glimpse of what we are made of as a human family following the earthquake in Haiti. We are made up of some pretty good stuff!

When word of Haitian orphans arriving in the United States to be adopted by American families hit the news, the outpouring of offers to adopt these children was remarkable.

Although remarkable, I could not help but wonder where these parents have been all along. There are orphans all over the world every day—many right here in the state of Indiana!

Witnessing deep suffering compels us to want to relieve it. It touches something deep within us. We care. We open our hearts and our bank accounts to share our resources. We pray with intense fervor that God will bring peace and healing.

Why? I believe that deep down we know that we all belong to one another—regardless of race, nationality, income or anything else that we often use as an excuse to separate ourselves from others.

In fact, we now know with absolute scientific certainty that all human beings are 99.9 percent biologically the same. God designed us to be more alike than different or separate.

Nothing moves us to action more than horrific tragedies. Another lesson that I hope we can all take away from this situation is that individuals and families are suffering every day throughout the world. If we could just open our eyes to the mini “earthquakes” that happen all around us, we would have so much less suffering in the world.

I invite you to draw near to those who are experiencing mini-earthquakes. Their suffering won’t be displayed on national television or www.MSNBC.com, but it is no less a tragedy.

While horrific tragedies cause the media to pay attention, we are called to focus on the plight of the poor every day. Countries like Haiti, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Kenya have these lack of infrastructure problems each day. Their residents are dying from things we take for granted: food, clean water, medicines to heal malaria and simple vitamin supplements to stop the onset of AIDS. When the camera leaves, their suffering doesn’t stop.

Catholic Relief Services, on the ground in each of these countries, and Catholic Charities in our country do great work regardless of whether an area is affected by an earthquake, tsunami or monsoon. They always need our help to bring full dignity to our brothers and sisters across the globe, and in our own neighborhoods. We just need to witness the need.

I pray that we can keep our eyes and hearts wide open to the needs that don’t make CNN.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

Local site Links: