The events of the last few days in Japan prey upon all our minds, and so they should. Human suffering and the fury of nature to such devastating effect must take us out of our 'normal' lives (as a friend on Twitter put it this morning, "Someone irritated you? Broken hoover/washing machine? Cat sick on carpet? So what - you could be in Japan.")
I am sitting here on a Sunday morning (unusually for me - I'd normally be up and about by now) but as I'm in London, in between two events - social and business - I'm staying with a colleague. I am comfortable, unhurried, in a warm bed with a cup of tea, my laptop, and the prospect of a lazy day. I enjoyed a reunion with colleagues of two decades back on Friday, and laughed much and hugged greatly. I ate well, drank wine and slept well; spoke to my husband back in Norfolk and know that I am loved much. I am, in short, very, very lucky indeed.
Prayers are being sent out for those who are affected, and so they should be. I'm not about to get into a discussion about the efficacy of prayer here: all I will say is that my prayers are never for divine intervention, but for the strength, opportunity and inspiration to do the work ourselves.
However, when the appeals go out on Facebook, whether it's for awareness of cancer, Alzheimers, mental health or anything else, I am always inclined to add the website links for the charities supporting those people; if the readers make donations, that will be wonderful; if they simply read and understand better, excellent.
In this case, my mind wanders as I consider the 'charity' route. I have just read a painful comment on a query about charitable giving to help those in Japan: "Forget about your own sick and homeless people - help other countries first." It's a fair point: it's Red Nose Day next Friday, and I cannot help wondering whether this regular and spectacular event will lose support as our focus is elsewhere.
But it shouldn't stop us at least considering how we help, and who, and where. If disasters of these proportions - Christchurch being just a short time ago - bring into sharper focus the need to think outside our own comfort zone, and then to choose wisely the way we use our own resources, that must be good.
I am a regular supporter of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People; it's my 'favourite charity' if I'm asked. When I was involved in the arrangements for the 'reunion' mentioned above, I suggested to the group that any unused funds from the payments we made for food and drink for the event go to charity, and they kindly allowed me to make the choice. In the event, I will split that surplus between my original promise to Hearing Dogs, and to ShelterBox (see below).
So, if you've stayed with me through this rambling Sunday morning thought, here are a few ideas for ways to help that seem appropriate now. I've linked to all their websites. They're all on Facebook and Twitter. Follow. Read. Link. And, where you can, give.
- ShelterBox provides "emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families around the world who are affected by disasters". ShelterBox was 'on the ground' in Japan within 24 hours of the disaster.
- The British Red Cross "a volunteer-led humanitarian organisation that helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are". This well-known and long-established and trusted charity has launched a special appeal for the victims of the Japanese tsunami.
- Comic Relief helps "poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the UK and Africa". Its unique combination of celebrity and anonymous help, of supporting those at home and those abroad, has been educating us in 'fun ways to give' since 1985. Long may it continue.
Our own economy is in poor shape. As a sole trader, these are not easy times for me. But any concerns I have about my own money, time or lifestyle are as NOTHING to what happens in the rest of the world, and around us here in our own country.
If you are saying prayers for Japan, include prayers for us all to look around us, both further afield and closer to home, at all times - not just in times of newsworthy disaster.