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The storm
My soul meanders among a broken people who will not see the calm even when the storm is gone

December 29, 2004

A harsh wind howls outside and something hits my window. It is hours past midnight. There's a heavy downpour and the wind makes the raindrops sound like gravel on the windowpane. I have seen worse weather in other parts of the world, but this seems out of character for the peaceful climate where I now live.

Throughout the day one could hear people complain, "Isn't this horrible?"

I listen to the harsh wind and pray for the people across the globe that have just experienced the depth of horror more than anyone deserved to.

No, this is not horrible at all.

When the news of the recent tsunami in Asia broke, at first the memory of a recent earthquake in Bam rushed back. Just when I had hoped that the worst was over, a horrific disaster reminds me of man's mind-boggling vulnerability. Nothing seems to hush the sounds in my head. Tall waves roar, they rise like a wall and break down to wipe all signs of life from around me. I feel the water as it blocks the air I breathe and I'm shaken as I learn the details of what shook thousands of my brothers, sisters and children.

Perspective is such a wonderful word. While disaster strikes one side of the Earth, another nation, suffering from some level of "the holiday blues", dissatisfied with a few gifts, and hungry for a hearty breakfast awakens to hear the news of such a tremendous tragedy. From one moment to the next, nothing seems to make sense any more.

I try to convince myself that God knows best, that there is a divine wisdom beyond everything that happens, but for the first time I don't believe that and fail to find a shred of justice. My whole faith is shaken. I want to pray, but wonder if anyone's listening, I want to help, but nothing seems to be enough and once again my feeble mind struggles with one huge question: Why?

Makes you wonder about fairness, doesn't it? I stare at some of the more recent photographs from the disaster scene: A mother clutching her lifeless child in her arms, large teardrops rolling down a manes face and what used to be homes is now nothing but rubble. They resemble fragments of a nightmare.

As if such a horrendous disaster isn't bad enough anywhere in the world, this had to happen to those who didn't have much to begin with. I try to remind myself of my own ignorance. Who am I to question God?

Then again, who will I question if not Him?

Rain lashes against my window. A blessing for the dry land in this part of the world, but tonight, my heart goes to those who feel anything but blessed. I'm reminded of Saadi's famous verse about mankind being parts of the same body. Did Saadi experience a night like this? What prompted him to write that poem so many centuries ago? Then again, the passage of time hasn't immunized man against pain, has it?

I call the hotlines to inquire how one can help.

"At this time, we can only accept monetary donations," a young voice replies.

I will do my share, but the thought does little to soothe this nagging pain. I guess, coming from a nurturing culture, I want to do more and to see that my actions make a difference. It would feel so much better if I could hold a hand, clothe a naked child and feed the hungry. Then again, are we so self centered that even in our good deeds we seek satisfaction?

I think about the threat of epidemics for the victims, the time it will take to restore their homes and the many broken hearts that will never mend. No matter what I do, my help will be insignificant. Little as it may be, we do what we can to forgive ourselves for the undeserved fortune bestowed on us.

In the darkness, I listen to the rain, but my soul meanders among a broken people who will not see the calm even when the storm is gone. Thousands of miles away, they become me and I am them. I extend a hand and hope that someday, an old man, a lonely woman or a child will benefit from the insignificant gift I offer them.

This cold world is in desperate need of the warmth of humanity.

Is there enough of that to go around?

To offer donations, please go to these sites:

International Committee of the Red Cross
19 avenue de la Paix
CH 1202 Geneva
ICRC general: ++ 41 (22) 733 20 57

UN Children's Fund

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres
PO Box 2247
New York, NY 10116-2247

American Red Cross
International Response Fund
PO Box 37243
Washington, DC 20013

International Medical Corps
11500 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 506
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Mercy Corps
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208

Operation USA
8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Oxfam America Asia Earthquake Fund
PO Box 1211 Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211

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