Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joplin

I pass a high school every day on my way to work. Today there were large trucks in the parking lot, and supplies were being loaded into them. I saw about several pallets worth of bottled water, more pallets of food, and tons of first aid equipment. Everyone was smiling. High school kids - smiling at 6:30 in the morning.

It is a strange truth that human beings are the most human in the face of disaster. I've argued before that I think that one thing that separates humans from animals is the ability to empathize with total strangers. What is it that drives us to help one another out? What benefit do we derive from it? Peace of mind perhaps.

But the mystic in me wonders if the invisible cords that bind every human to every other are strengthened by acts of kindness, and reinforced by acts of charity. Does my heart go out to the people suffering in Joplin because it is literally being pulled by them? Is it so hard to believe that somewhere inside this bag of meat there is the ability to feel the suffering of another human being? About the earthquake in Haiti, I wrote:
God acts through all of us, and the $19 million in online relief funds raised so far come because despite our best efforts, we feel a connection and empathy towards the suffering of all other human beings, and most of us find that suffering hard to ignore. Further, a part of us is physically rewarded when we sacrifice a small part of our fiscal stability in order to ease a small part of the physical suffering of others. This tendency, the urge to throw a tiny, inconsequential iota of cash at others, isn't because God whisperes "text 'Haiti' to 90999" into our ears, it is because upon seeing the devastation, and hearing how helpless and weak the people of Haiti are, the part of us that is separate from animal, the part of us that is absurd and complex and is interconnected with the similar parts of all other humans, the part of us that is bestowed by the Almighty, that part feels genuine pain at the suffering of others, and wants to alleviate their suffering, in an attempt to alleviate its own suffering.
No one wants tornadoes to destroy towns or Earthquakes to crumble cities. But I have to say, watching America's Youth happily loading supplies onto those trucks...made me feel as much hope for the future as I have felt in a long time.


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