By Craig Funston
As I sit in the secure comfort of my snug basement office–heated cement floor beneath my feet, to boot–I am completely incapable of grasping what is happening in the Philippines. Usually, any time-sensitive column written a week before publication is old news by the time you read it (in the secure comfort of your snug office).
Sad to say, this is not that. With the relief effort just getting under way, and with the official death toll still too inaccurate, the bad news from the Philippines will be current news for a while.
Indeed, the mess in the Philippines will be a around for a long time—one long present tense, if you will.
When it comes to man versus nature, there is always only one victor—nature. We have gone through the Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, the tsunamis in Japan and Southeast Asia over the past few years, so we have ample evidence nature’s wrath. And between the recent fires in Australia and not-so-recent earthquake in Haiti, she certainly has been on a rampage.
I have no idea what our friends in the Philippines have gone through, no matter how graphic the television images are. We see just pictures of the tragedy, not the the real thing; and the four other senses are ineffective conductors because we are not there on the spot. News reports are adequate at best, even live ones.
Natural debacles like these bring out the worst and the best in humanity. The worst? The usual looting, killing, and hoarding. And they say the corruption is already rampant among government officials. It disgusts me, but I’m not over there and it’s not my family that is starving to death. (That, by the way, is not a token condoning of such evil acts; just a human perspective on, well, human perspective.)
Then there’s the bodies hanging from trees, and the accounts of loved ones being ripped from one’s arms through the fury of the storm—these are enough to drive anyone to do crazy things. And lack of clean drinking is a pretty good contributor to irrational behaviour.
But, as usual, I want to focus on the best in humanity. What has grabbed my attention the most is the humanitarian aid and services that has poured in from the usual countries. I say usual countries because it’s the same few who always step up, while the same many fail to rise up to the occasion.
Two of the afore-mentioned “few” are, of course, Canada and the United States. I know there were other Commonwealth countries (such as Australia), but I am grateful to be part of a country that rises to its global duty when called upon—every single time. To me, sending money and supplies, along with services, is the better way to the dole out foreign aid—not the usual, irresponsible manner (ie., no strings attached) that we normally do it.
I have often wondered why, of the 190 or so countries in the world, that so few are able—correction: willing– to reach out when disaster strikes. With all the wealth in the Middle Eastern countries, where are they when the chips are down? And with all their passion in faith, where’s the goodwill? There is no question that the matter of faith is a key factor: One of the tenets of the Judeo-Christian perspective is serving and helping others.
And I speak of that faith in the broadest sense of the word, not merely along denominational lines. Even from our corner of the country, I cannot tell you how many teams from different Mennonite churches and members of the Evangelical Free Church in the greater Bow Island area have a mission mentality. Teams of common working folk have given up weeks of their lives to serve those in New Orleans; and there are on-going treks to Haiti to dig wells.
General, long-term acts of kindness, the establishment of schools and hospitals are just some few examples of practical faith. This is rarely, if ever, found in other worldwide religions. (I have every intention of developing and defending that statement in a column coming very shortly.)
And as a society that is staggering farther and farther away from these roots, I lament the reality that such acts of global kindness will slowly diminish. You see, when you are raised to look out for yourself or stomp on people to get ahead, there is no place in your thinking for others—especially others in need. Again, part of the healthy legacy of Judeo-Christian teaching is caught up in the phrase ”serving others.”
So whether we do it as a nation, by sending money, aid, or workers to the Philippines in their hour (months?) of need, or as individuals by, well, doing the same, we make this world a safer place to live in.
No matter what Mother Nature has to say about it.