“An estimated 1 million kids orphaned by quake.”
“An estimated 1 million kids orphaned by quake.” That stunning headline is enough to break your heart, isn’t it? Barely two weeks into the Haitian catastrophe, and the unfolding saga keeps peeling back layer after layer of the immense heartache and suffering that our Caribbean neighbors are enduring.
“The children with no names lay mute in a corner of the General Hospital grounds Tuesday, three among thousands of boys and girls set adrift in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake. ‘Hi, Joe, how are you?’ the American doctor tried, using a pet name the staff had given a boy of about 11. There was no response. ‘Joe,’ ‘Baby Sebastian’ and the girl who didn’t even have a nickname hadn’t spoken or cried since they were brought over the previous 48 hours—by neighbors, passers-by, no one knows who. ‘Sebastian,’ only a week old, was said to have been taken from the arms of his dead mother” (SBTribune 1-27-10).
A CBS Evening News reporter trailed along with one boy, 10 or 11 years old, who was wandering the crowded streets of Port-au-Prince, his parents dead from the quake. “And where do you sleep at night?” The boy led the camera and reporter to a concrete ledge surrounding a broken city fountain. He climbed up onto the ledge, curled his legs under him to show the visitors how he passed the lonely, comfortless nights.
Researchers describe two very real human responses to televised catastrophes. First, there is “frozen emotions”—the mental numbness that eventually steels the heart from responding after viewing repeated portrayals of human suffering. Soon, it’s just more news—and we become unaffected. The second response is “donor fatigue”—a weariness from the barrage of appeals that eventually shuts off the flow of compassionate response. None of us is immune to either reaction.
So what can we do for the orphans, how shall we continue to respond to the sufferers? What did Jesus do? Because of his three and a half years of ministry in Palestine, the world was not suddenly relieved of its wider suffering. The truth is only a relatively small proportion of humanity was affected by Jesus’ compassionate response. Why? Simply because he couldn’t be everywhere. But he could be fully engaged with the suffering that surrounded him. Couldn’t that be our response, too? Yes, we must continue to support the compassionate interventions of disaster response teams like Adventist Development and Relief Agency (www.ADRA.org needs our contributions). But like Jesus we must also become engaged with suffering needs that surround us. The soup kitchen, the street ministries, the Harbor of Hope’s Kids’ Zone at our church plant—just twelve miles up the road are compelling needs waiting for compassionate volunteers. So won’t you pray for Haiti, give to Haiti, but “unfreeze” your emotions and make a difference right by volunteering here at home? After all doesn’t it say somewhere, “Many are called, but a few are frozen”? Then let’s unfreeze for Christ!