Monday, January 18, 2010

Responding to Crisis

Haiti%20 Over the last six days I have been overwhelmed by the barrage of pictures and video footage coming from Haiti. And, like many of you, my heart has been broken by the suffering of the people there. The images of the injured and grieving are haunting, and the estimates of 50,000 – 100,000 dead are staggering.

The developed world is responding with immediate relief and assistance with search, rescue, and medical care as well as promises to aid with the long term task of rebuilding. Individuals are responding with generous giving to relief organizations, and celebrities are banding together to assist with fundraising through concerts, appearances, and television specials. The world is coming together to respond to this great tragedy, as it should.

Haiti%20E But as I see this great outpouring of love and assistance, something bothers me. Why is it that we are so ready to respond to this one tragic event while so readily ignoring an ongoing tragedy of far greater devastation? We gasp at the thought of as many as 100,000 deaths as the result of an earthquake while ignoring the reality that more than that many children in our world die every four days from poverty related issues. And these deaths are the result of the apathy of those who could make a difference.

Why do we focus on this one solitary tree of need while ignoring the forest of suffering that surrounds it? I don’t know for sure, but I have some ideas:

  1. The media drives our focus. Therefore, what the news ignores we ignore. CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, and CBS don’t give airtime to the struggling of undeveloped nations unless it is in their interest to do so. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
  2. It is far easier to respond to a one time tragedy than an ongoing need. Our emotions respond readily in the short-term, and it is easy to make a one-time donation toward a recovery effort. Then, when the event is over (or, at least, the media coverage has ended) we can move on, assuring ourselves that we did our part and the need has passed. Responding to long-term needs such as malnutrition and unsafe drinking water requires ongoing commitment and sacrifice. It means giving and going, not just in this moment, but for a lifetime. So, we ease our consciences by doing our little part within a one-time event while ignoring the greater needs that requires life-change to impact.
  3. It is easier to join a band wagon than to start a movement. I understand this inclination very well. When you feel like you are alone in meeting large needs, you can wonder if you are making a difference. But when you see that you are part of a multitude who is each doing their own little part, you see the result. (In the last few days millions have been raised for the Red Cross through ten dollar donations made by using the text feature on cell phones.) As a result, it is easy to make our donation and feel effective, but miss the ongoing impact we could have on individuals and families by providing some water filters or monthly sponsorship.

I don’t want you to misunderstand my words. The earthquake in Haiti is a monumental tragedy to which we need to respond. We should give, go and pray for this nation during the rescue, recovery, and rebuilding. But, when the rebuilding is done and life has resumed, we should continue to respond to this nation that is so filled with poverty and others like it. And that response should continue long after the cameras have left.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Making Sense Out of Chaos

ICU 9 As I write this blog, we are on our fifteenth day of Joshua’s hospital stay. If you have been keeping track, you know that Joshua had surgery on December 9th to untether his spinal cord. Then, after going home on the 14th we discovered a pocket of fluid in his lower back on the 19th that signified a leakage for spinal fluid. He had emergency surgery on Sunday, December 20th and he spent Christmas in the ICU.

What you do not yet know is that on Monday, the 28th we discovered that the surgery had failed and he was once again leaking spinal fluid into his lower back. We are currently waiting for his primary neurosurgeon to return tomorrow and perform the necessary surgery to repair the failed graft. We can expect another 10 to 14 days in the hospital following that surgery.

ICU 16 During this ordeal, our children have rallied and made the best of a difficult situation. They had great attitudes as we spent Christmas Day in the ICU and have been tremendous at helping out around the house. In spite of the difficulty and disappointment of spending the holidays in the hospital, we were able to have fun as a family and keep our focus on Jesus. For that, we are thankful.

At the same time, we are all very tired. Wanda spends most days here with Joshua, and I spend most nights here. The older kids have had to shoulder much of the household responsibilities and the care of the younger children. And most of our college student’s Christmas break has been spent with these challenges. And as they return to school tomorrow, we are still facing another surgery early in the week and another long recovery, even if everything goes smoothly.

Snapshot_20091231_1 And, on top of it all, Joshua has been suffering. Our normally outgoing and happy little guy has become withdrawn and sad. One night, as I was tucking him in for the night, he got huge tears in his eyes and said, “I’m never going home, am I?” I would give anything to be able to change places with him.

Normally, when I write this blog it is because I have experiences or insights to share. I confess that I’ve got nothing this time. I know that God is good and that He has a plan for all of this. I know He is faithful and will provide what we need for the days ahead. My faith is not shaken at all. But I am tired, hurting for Joshua, aching for the rest of our children and Wanda, and dreading what still lies ahead.

So, please pray for Joshua and our family. Please pray that this surgery is successful. And please pray for our girls who are heading back to college, but are leaving part of their hearts at Dayton Children’s.