Dramatic Tragedy, Dramatic Compassion
By now we’ve all seen the dramatic photos and videos of Harvey’s assault on Texas over the last week. The unrelenting rain, the growing number of areas flooded which leads to the corresponding growth in numbers of people needing rescue and then shelter. For many of us, this tragedy has also struck us even more deeply as we have seen similar pictures and videos of rescues and relocations posted on social media such as Facebook by our own friends and relatives.
And as usually happens in times of great tragedy, many will be moved to compassion by these dramatic images and will respond in powerful ways. Our own International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has already begun to collect donations for what will be an enormous and long-lasting recovery effort. Donations can be made at http://www.iocc.org and Metropolitan JOSEPH has also announced that a fundraising effort will be conducted throughout the Archdiocese to help alleviate the suffering of the victims of this catastrophe.
If history is any indicator, the enormity of the tragedy will only be matched by the enormity of the loving and generous response from people who will help. Following the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, and the attacks of September 11 just to name a few, millions of dollars in aid and materials flowed to these places of need. All of this is good and should be encouraged and continued. But what about the needs of countless others that are no less dramatic but only less visible? Let’s take a different kind of tragedy as an example: if a commercial airliner tragically crashes, the news is filled with stories and images for days. And yet, every day hundreds of victims die tragically in auto accidents and most never make the news. The scale of the tragedy between an individual car accident is much smaller than a downed airliner, but taken together car accidents are exponentially more devastating. Why the decrease in attention? Quite simply, there’s less noticed drama. 200 people who die in 200 separate accidents just seems less dramatic than 200 people perishing together in a single airliner, but factually speaking, the tragedies are equal.
In the case of Harvey, millions of dollars will flow in aid to the victims, and again this is good. And yet, every day in our nation (and of course around the world) greater numbers of people are just as much in need of housing, clothing, and food. The only difference is that these needy, scattered throughout our cities and countrysides from coast to coast, have the additional misfortune of suffering relatively alone, outside the interest of cable news cameras, relatively unnoticed. But their need is the same.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will witness and hopefully lovingly participate in what may turn out to be an unprecedented humanitarian relief effort for the victims in Southeast Texas and Louisiana. But while we’re doing that, let’s not allow our compassion to be governed by what an editor in a newsroom deems “newsworthy”. I am grateful to see the response of our parish in our efforts such as feeding homeless families at Family Haven, staffing the Camelot Block Party, working the Catholic Charities foster care Christmas store and bringing gifts to the baby shower which benefits their outreach to the everyday needs of young families in our community.
So let’s continue these and even increase our efforts, knowing that need is need, no matter the visibility or the lack thereof. We don’t need to measure drama on any level other than that which is experienced by the one who suffers, regardless of how many others may or may not notice it. Let’s increase our compassionate love for those in need, and whose need we will notice, if we just look a little deeper and closer than that which makes the news. As Christians (the name which means “little Christs”), we serve in imitation of the Great Servant who responded to needs great and small, open and ignored, and regardless of whether or not anyone else noticed the silent drama being played out in each precious life.