The world has been overflowing with grief in the past few weeks. It’s made me stop and think about my part in all of this. I don’t live near any of the recent disasters, either inside or outside of the United States, but still my heart weeps right along with these people. I’m so far away and I have no idea what I could possibly do to help ease their tremendous suffering. I’m just one person, one person who can not transport herself there to wipe a tear or help with the physical labor or relief efforts. I went looking for answers in the one place I trust the most: my faith and my religion.
“The Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center,” Ensign, Mar 2001, 60.
For me, I think the most important things I can do are: never lose my empathy, pray and prepare.
As bad as things may get, I should never find myself shrugging off the latest news of a hurting world. Yes, it’s discouraging and depressing so I don’t read or listen to very much, but I try to watch the main headlines so I can be aware of my fellowman. I hope there never comes a day when I’ve seen so much grief that I forget to notice that these are real people with real suffering. I hope I never get to a point where I can shrug it all off because it doesn’t directly effect me.
No matter what is happening, the best place I can turn to be of help is to my faith. Just as I turned to it for answers about how to help, if I keep turning to it the paths I can best follow with be shown to me. If nothing else I can exercise my faith in the atonement on other people’s behalf, pleading for its effects to reach a place where it can plant the seeds of peace in their wounded hearts. I pray for those that suffer and those left behind that the despair will not become more than they can bear.
I pray for those who are able to help from a closer proximity that they might be sped on their way and find those in most need. I pray that they will be safe as they move forward to help. I pray that the supplies they bare will be sustained in the manner of the loaves and fishes. I pray that their strength will endure beyond their normal capabilities. I try to send a portion of myself in support and offer a plea for the best gift of all, the Savior’s help. He is there. We have to know that. In the midst of all this, He has not abandoned us, or them, and left us to ourselves. He continues to do all He can, though some may say He’s not there at all, to comfort and guide and record the pain and suffering around Him. He pays the price for all of that. He cries with us. He places His yoke firmly around those who work and bare these tremendous trials. He carries them home when their lives can not be spared. I add my faith to His efforts and know that He can do more than any man or organization if they were left to themselves.
Lastly, I try to prepare: both in my own family and for organizations I believe in who reach out in these times of need. I remember the Lord’s counsel to put away stores for future need: food, money and anything else that might be needed to sustain the life of my family. I try to remember that I’m storing not only for my own needs but to be able to reach out to another’s needs. When I’m storing appropriately, there is always an extra dish in the freezer or an extra $5 for the relief funds. When I’m not, I feel the weight of what might have been if I had been ready to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands.
I also store up knowledge. Though I may not actively use all of it, I try to learn and know how to access information, about things I may need to know in an emergency— basic first aid, basic herbal concepts, basic water purification, basic survival. Because of my profession as a nurse, I also store basic supplies that would help me meet a more serious need. I keep an extra box of gloves, bandages, topical antibiotics, and various other implements tucked in with my extra stethoscope, blood pressure cuff and other implements. Are there aspects of what you know that would be helpful to another in an emergency? Include these things in your stores.
The final area we can all help in is money. Donating goods and money as often as possible opens a great deal of doors for organizations that specialize in relief and support efforts. Budgeting for this every day and month rather than just when the need is immediate allows service organizations to move in faster and better equipped than if they have to wait for additional funding or supplies. Many years ago when I was in nursing school, we had a guest speaker from the Red Cross come in to talk to us about what they do. While I’m not saying that the Red Cross is the best or only means of participation in relief efforts, I think her message applies across the board. I still remember the thing she stressed as most important— money. In her own words: additional helping hands are nice, but too many causes more problems than too few, and goods are great but money is better.
She told of working one disaster area and having a semi-truck full of feminine products brought to their site. They were donated very generously by the product manufacturer but not exactly appropriate at the time. Suddenly, the Red Cross had to use valuable resources and manpower finding ways to dispense these goods which, yes, may have been needed but not in that quantity. Giving money ensures that they can get and provide exactly what is most needed at any given stage of a disaster. You’d be amazed at what the best organizations can do with only a few dollars. No matter how small your own donation may seem, know that it is doing more good than you could ever imagine.
For me, I prefer to donate my time, money and goods, to the LDS church humanitarian aid division. Why? Because they are very careful with what I give them. All money they receive goes directly into supporting those in need. The church covers all its own overhead expenses. Plus, they are very careful about the type of aid they provide. Help from them comes in two forms— immediate and long-term. Not only do they help with urgent needs, they are constantly on the watch for ways they can help people improve their way of life in the long-term often years after the rest of the world has moved on.
When I think of their pain and suffering, my small gestures of contribution still don’t seem like much but I continue to give because the Savior did and I trust in Him to take my meager offering and magnifying for those I’m sending my heart out to. Please, if nothing else remember to pray, and remember to give.