Heartwrenching to Heartwarming 714.1

The huge 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan and the still unfolding consequences of tsunamis rolling to shores all over the world are just the latest reminders of our vulnerability to unpredictable, unavoidable, massive natural disasters.

In 2004, more than 200,000 people (mostly Indonesians) died in an Indian Ocean tsunami. A year later, an earthquake in Pakistan killed about 80,000. Last year, hundreds of thousands died in Haiti from still another earthquake.

After each calamity, the world’s media drenches us in images and stories about the costs of Mother Nature’s wrath, motivating millions of people to donate money and thousands to volunteer time to do whatever they can to help. Thus, from these heartwrenching stories come hundreds of heartwarming ones about the kindness and generosity of the best of our species.

Every day our safety and comfort depends on the services of an army of government workers: police, firefighters, bus drivers, water and sanitation officials, and many more.

But in a world continually ripped by massive calamities, we also need an auxiliary corps of volunteers, ordinary citizens who willingly undergo discomfort and danger to help fellow human beings.

Volunteers are special people with a highly developed sense of responsibility. While pessimists and optimists argue whether a glass is half-empty or half-full, the volunteer sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty.

Lots of truly great people, including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and Mother Teresa, have told us that the surest and most worthy road to happiness is service.

Let’s take a break from a steady diet of celebrity sex and drug scandals to acknowledge and praise the volunteers who take that road and wish them the happiness they deserve.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

* Southern Californians: check out BigSunday.org for volunteer opportunities.

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Comments 7

  1. Michael Josephson, you are so right when it comes to praising our volunteers. I think more and more, people are losing sight as to what really matters. We are so cuaght in todays “flash” media, and forget the people who really matter, the volunteers in the world who do selfless acts everyday to help our fellow human being.
    Today, me and a coworker got into a discussion as to why it we should help the people of Japan. He felt it was wrong for us to over to Japan and assist them. “Why should we go over there? Where were they when 911 happened? Did anyone help us? We have americans here that need help”, he would tell me. It is this “what is it in for me” attitude that really shocks me. Should we question why should we help our fellow human being? Does the fact that helping a fellow human being, regardless if they are part of our group or not, matter any more?
    I thought about it. Regardless if someone helps us or not, our actions need to come from the heart of what is ethical and morally right.When one is truly concerned for another person, you don’t care if there is a benefit or not. You help your fellow man because they need help. It is this selfless act that I hope to always strive to do. Maybe eventually it will be passed on to others. Good bless those who are suffering in Japan, and God help us all!

  2. I prey at night for the people in Japan that are in the crisis that they are in. I have heard that people don’t care for what is happening in Japan. On the internet I read that “nobody helped us when we where attacked by 911.” I told myself that I never wanted to read this because it is just immoral that some will write something like that on the internet. So i think that i a very good commentary for the people that care.

  3. I appreciate the feelings of those who think it is pay back time for those who did not help Americans during the ‘911 attack’. However, you do not want to be at the same level with those who were not moved enough to help you for reasons or excuses best known to them. You want to rise above them and help because of the greater value you have. You are even alive to have the opportunity to show them that it is more blessed to give than to receive; what of our fallen colleagues who cannot witness today. It is in our giving that we will be able to lift those who did not help us then from the valley of an uncaring character. Givers never lack and their hand will always be on top of those who receive. Let us therefore help in appreciation of God who has kept us alive to be channels of blessing to those in need. Perhaps they will survive this period to join us in giving and helping in the future.

  4. Thank you for saying that Michael!As a 16+ years Search and Rescue volunteer, I find that “spirit” of serving and sense of responsibility in the behavior of all whom volunteer. I never thought of my own volunteerism, though, as you describe.
    As far as helping the people of Japan, one can “volunteer” money, food, clothing, blankets, other pertinent articles necessary for survival for human or animal (pets) use. If not asked or part of an organized aide group, it is more helpful to volunteer to stay at home and provide support through other means. Your presence to a devistated area presents a logistical support burden in that you have your own survival needs that represent competition for the same basic needs of the survivers who live in the devistated area.
    “Volunteer” responsibly.

  5. “This earthquake is not an Act of God; it is just the planet doing what it does. The Act of God is in how we respond as people to help and comfort each other.” (spoken by the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral)

  6. Thank you so much for these wonderful thoughts and words! The theme for our chuch season is “Wilderness 101.” WE have been talking about different types of wildernesses and what we can do to inprove these situations. I will be leading a service for women and my goal is to get them thinking about walking into a wilderness situation to help as best we can. Your words. as well as those in the responses you received , will be very helpful! Giving and sharing is beautiful!

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