Do What You Can

Without love – you are nothing. Among the messages in Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo’s guest sermon today at Trinity Presbyterian Church was that no matter what else you have going on in your life, it’s love that will get you through the day – and your life. He also questioned why there is so little commitment today; why don’t we KEEP the promises we make? He says it’s because we IMG_0695 - Copyare weak. My belief is that we give up too easily – call it weak – call it lazy. We feel like making a commitment in the moment – and then we lose interest. Campolo told a great story about visiting Haiti following the earthquake that ravaged the nation. He was solicited by young girls offering themselves to him for $10 each. He took all three to his room, ordered all the Disney movies the hotel had (8) and called room service and ordered four extra-large banana splits. After the last girl had fallen asleep following hours of watching Disney movies and enjoying their ice cream party, he felt as though he had done nothing to really help IMG_0645 - CopyIMG_0687 - Copythese young girls who would be back out on the streets again finding men who would take advantage of them. But Campolo said whether it was his own voice or the voice of God inside him, he heard the message that he gave back the childhood of those three girls if only for one night. He did what he could.

We’ve heard the message a lot recently, especially since the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy: pay it forward; do one nice thing for someone else; if not every day – as often as you can. Do what you can – and the world will be a better place.

Just Passing Through

“We’re not owners here; we’re just passing through.” In the outstanding Academy Award-winning film, Out of Africa, Denys Finch Hatton (played by the wonderfully photogenic Robert Redford) is dancing with Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) and laments to her that our possessions and our lives are fleeting. http://www.spike.com/video/out-of-africa-out-of/2324400

Imagine the despair and hopelessness felt by the tens of thousands of Haitians affected by the earthquake. Their lives were always difficult. Haiti is among the poorest nations in the world. Formal education is rare; illiteracy is the norm. But, this was their normal. The happiness experienced in the past, friends, family and day-to-day tasks will likely never be the same. While we are so very resilient as a species, lives in Haiti have been cut short; those who have survived may be suffering for an incredibly long time with illnesses, injuries that never heal properly and the loss of loved ones.

The 11 year-old girl who ws a miracle just the other day; pulled from the rubble in Port-au-Prince died. http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/17/haiti.earthquake.girl.funeral/index.html?hpt=C1

Anna’s life was fleeting. She did not own her life; she was just passing through.

As our nation honors Martin Luther King, Junior with a day of service, we remember to help those in our communities. This week, Sustainable Cherry Hill (www.sustainablecherryhill.org) and the Center for Transformation in Camden are presenting “The Poet of Poverty.” The documentary profiles Father Michael Doyle, a long-time advocate of Camden, its people and what is good no matter where you live. The event also includes a panel discussion led by Father Doyle and other local community leaders. The event itself is a sell out, but the message is: take your passions, your knowledge, your strength to other communities that need your help. Rutgers-Camden is also planning an event the end of the month to inspire the campus community to help in its host community.

While an earthquake of the magnitude that struck Haiti is never like to strike in our region, there is poverty and hopeless people within a few miles of you. We can help in many ways large and small. What is important is that we try to help.

“When you think the gods are punishing you, they answer your prayers,” said Karen Blixen in Out of Africa. We can help answer some prayers..every day.

http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_haiti_video_landing

The Wait – Finding Hope

Can you imagine being in the shoes of a person who has loved ones in Haiti and you can’t reach them? For as much communication and connectivity we have in our lives today to not be able to reach someone on a cell phone or by email must be incredibly horrifying. Even as the Red Cross and other agencies populate their special pages and web sites to help find victims and survivors of the earthquake, the agonizing hours and days of waiting are anguishing.

The searches are continuing; there are some miracles as an 11-year-old girl is pulled alive from the rubble with a badly mangled leg. Doctors Without Borders are setting up portable hospitals somewhere near Port-Au-Prince. Aid is beginning to flow into the devastated area, but roads remain blocked and survivors are living in the streets and the few open areas that remain. Families and children are helplesshttp://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/devestated

These facts from a CNN report before the earthquake are stunning:

Athena Kolbe of the University of Michigan did a survey last summer of nearly 1,000 households in three highly populated neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

Just over half the people in those neighborhoods had access to electricity — when it was available at all — the survey found.

Most used public or private water kiosks as their main source of drinking and cooking water, and most used shared pit latrines rather than bathrooms, Kolbe found in her study for the Small Arms Survey. Few families had water piped into their homes.

More than nine out of 10 used charcoal for cooking; the others used gas.

Adults had an average of just over two and a half years of formal schooling.

Eighty percent of Haiti’s 9 million residents live under the poverty line. More than half — 54 percent — live in abject poverty, according to the CIA Factbook.

Now, factor in a disaster of this proportion, and you’ve probably seen Haiti fall 50 years behind where the nation started. Whatever we can give, however we can help, we must try. I’m going to the Red Cross web site:  http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG000000000&s_subsrc=RCO_Donate_OnlineGiving

Dig as deep as you can.

100,000 and counting in Haiti

The death toll in Haiti will likely top 100,000. That’s like wiping out all of Cherry Hill and Haddonfield in one fell swoop. The photos and video this morning of the president’s house were remarkable. It’s hard to imagine the White House being similarly devastated. It could have happened September 11, but that would have been man-made.

Just the other day I was thinking about how San Francisco recovered after the October 1989 6.8 earthquake. The Marina district was devastated. The 101 freeway collapsed on itself crushing motorists. Remember Al Michaels switching from World Series play-by-play to disaster coverage? That earthquake struck just before the digital age. Cell phones weren’t big and computers were just starting to become mainstream. Even in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, cell phones, texts and emails to the outside world were possible so many families could find out how their loved ones fared in this disaster.

Being in the news business for so long, as I saw word of the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti Tuesday night, I knew the disaster would be widespread. A hospital collapsed, bodies are in the streets, the bone-crushing injuries others are suffering – it’s heartbreaking. Now, the tent cities will rise from the rubble. People are already camping out awaiting help from around the world.

The faces of the survivors will be filled with shock and grief for days to come. People who have tried and failed to get word from their loved ones in Haiti will get devastating news in the coming days. Some lucky people will find out their loved ones did survive, but have lost everything, or worse, are tragically injured.

For most of us, we do what we can: we donate blood, write a check to the Red Cross or other relief organization. Still others who are specially trained, will be heading to Haiti to help the stricken people in any way they can. So remember the victims, the survivors and those relief workers as well as the search and rescue workers who have so much to do for months to come.

One thing we know: people are resilient. We find a way to start again. No matter how horrible the crisis, we dig deep and look to find what it takes to move forward. Bless the children, their families and all those stricken tonight.