Nepal and Baltimore. Two disasters days and worlds apart. The immediate question when we watch what's happening on the news is: How can I help?
Looking at the images from Nepal, you can't help but want to do something for the suffering people, the broken temples, and a country grieving.
The pictures from Baltimore create endless questions: Why is this happening? Why can't we find ways to take care of all of us? How is this happening again? How do we keep treating each other this way?
In response to both disasters, we want to help. How can we make a difference in natural and cultural disasters that will continue to fill our screens?
1. Meditate. You want to make sure your response to disaster isn't out of the stress in your own life or your brain's alarm reaction to the images, sit. Sit and breathe. Sit and listen to music. Sit and look at something beautiful. 12 minutes is all it takes to recenter and be ready to handle tough situations. It works for the Marines; it can work for you.
2. Look at the images and cry. Yep, cry. If we can't be in touch with the fact that these disasters are horrible, we can't really help. Crying isn't good for you if it just escalates your despair. And, it is incredibly helpful if it puts you in touch with your own reasons for crying and opens you up to people who can comfort you. Your tears will remind you we can't ignore what's going on; you care and that's a good thing. Your tears may inspire other's compassion too.
3. Donate. There are so many places every dollar helps. Here are 39 for Nepal. But don't just to the concern of the moment. As I watched the news report on the efforts to keep Baltimore from burning, a family I care for with financial challenges messaged me asking for help moving into their new apartment. Helping them is just as important as helping people across the world. Donate your time, your ideas, and your muscle. Your donations in your neighborhood are as valuable in times of crisis around the world as the dollars overseas.
4. Say a prayer. You don't have to have your beliefs perfected to ask for help. What is God? No matter what your religious answer or background, love is a real thing in the world. We need more of it. We need to ask for more of it for the suffering all around us. Simply pray, "May there be more love in the world today. May I be a manifestation of love in all I do!"
5. Say Thank You to someone (to everyone). I left my hotel Tuesday and I wrote a thank you note (and left a tip) to a stranger who cared for me for five days. I said a few extra thank yous to the men and women at TSA as I traveled. I thanked the bartender who got my order wrong three times. I thanked my wife for being supportive as I left her alone for almost a week. Saying thank you makes people feel better about themselves and more ready to do the hard work of connecting with others. The more we say thank you, the stronger our relationships in the world and more relief in disasters is possible.
6. Get out of your bubble. It is so easy in the developed world to get stuck in first world problems. Slow service at a restaurant or a disagreement with a politician, getting cut off in traffic or treated poorly by a boss or co-worker; they make us grumpy, but these things are not worthy of our rage. Go help someone in the city if you live in the suburbs. Travel to a place like New Orleans or Haiti. They are still recovering. Go to the neighborhood next to yours and look in the shops and restaurants; meet the people; connect our fractured world. We have to have experiences that aren't our 'normal.' It's the only way to get a bigger perspective; to open our minds to ways to make a difference when disaster strikes near and far.
7. Talk about how to help. I watched people close to me and strangers make snide comments about what was happening and how people were responding to Baltimore. I watched people not even think about Nepal. Or Haiti. Or Syria. Disaster is part of our world. It has many forms. We can talk about it. The more comfortable we become talking about the suffering around us, the more ready and able we are to help when a disaster is in front of us. Ask those close to you, "If a person yelled at you in public, how would you be compassionate?" "If a tornado hit the next town, how will we help?" Ask, "Are we ready if a disaster struck in our own neighborhood?" The conversation gets your brain ready with the memory of what you can do next time disaster happens.
And one more. Answer these questions in the comments. What suggestions do you have for responding to disasters? How will you express more kindness and compassion in a needy world?
One thing is for sure, we can't ignore the disasters around us in a social media connected world. In fact, we wouldn't want to. How will you help the disasters? Every prayer, dollar, and conversation matters. So, to you, for everything you do: Thank you.