Anyone who has survived a catastrophe, no matter how personal or public, has memories about the moment it happened and right afterwards. We remember the shock, fear and total anxiety about what might be next; the helplessness, the overwhelming bewilderment and panic again and again, especially if the catastrophe involves the earth beneath our feet and seemingly everything around and above us.
When our senses begin to assess what happened, we reach for anything that might relieve that panic. We want to put our arms around someone we love or count on for comfort. Sometimes we are the only ones we can turn to.
For media consumers who learn about such disasters second hand, the search for the facts is often poorly satisfied. We are obliged to wait for stories about people and places we care about. We we finally begin to embrace the size and depth of the events taking place out of our immediate awareness, our challenge is to put that "far away" news in perspective. We ask ourselves what it all should mean...and what we can do about it.
If we know someone who lived in the middle of the catastrophe, of course, it all becomes profoundly more personal.
These days, the knowing and caring have become so immediate that merely turning on a computer or television can set the boundaries of our compassion, empathy and action. But here's the catch. We are all--really--living among fewer than six degrees of separation. The woman who serves my restaurant meal is from Nepal. My neighbor attends a Buddhist sangha whose mediation leader is from Kathmandu. The photographer husband of a former student has decided to rush home to Nepal to help.
Fundraisers and relief efforts of all shapes and sizes are begun, organized, celebrated or abandoned, and life goes on here. There, in the Himalayan mountains that seem somehow even larger than before, children and adults who have survived these past few weeks will never be the same. When the last bag of relief rice is opened and the last emergency tent collapses under torrential rains, everyday life in places like Shikharpa and other villages whose names most Americans can't pronounce will continue mostly like today.
How might such days be better than yesterday? That is the question that the Sarvodaya approach asks long after the helicopters and lorries full of relief supplies have disappeared. And it's a question worth answering. How will we be then? Standing side by side with our friends and strangers in Nepal or already thinking about the next big story.
What's your answer today, then a month or year from now? Let's share ideas. Connect here. Donate here.