Typhoons and Thanksgiving

I was on the treadmill at the YMCA this morning, and the TV screens were filled with images of “holiday travel chaos/nightmares” here in the US: delayed airplanes, cars overturned on snow-covered roads, and people hunched over in rows of seats in airports. Lots of people concerned about whether they would be able to gather with loved ones. No doubt many deciding as I type this post whether to risk driving today.

Occasionally this now perennial image would appear on a screen:Image

As the show’s hosts’ words about this year’s ‘Black Friday’ deals scrawled across the screen, it was the image of tents that grabbed me: specifically the contrast between the Best Buy image and this one:


It’s been almost three weeks since Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, killing more than 5,000 people, and leaving more than half a million people displaced. The typhoon has already been downgraded news-wise to brief updates between lengthy stories about Thanksgiving travel, and discussions about the Macy’s parade balloons: will they be able to fly? What about the Shamu/PETA controversy?

I understand the news-cycle. I also understand my own capacity for compassion fatigue: after the initial surge of desire to help those devastated by disasters of this scale, it’s all too easy to ‘move on,’ while those suffering spend years trying to recover from what they have lost. That is why Rebecca and I are monthly supporters of organizations that are involved in both disaster relief and long-term development, so that our response to the suffering of the millions who are displaced, hungry and sick around the world right now is not dependent on what appears on TV screens, or our feelings about it at any given moment.

Two of the organizations we support are involved in relief work in the Philippines: Oxfam America and World Relief. As you take inventory of what you have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, perhaps you’ll consider joining us in becoming regular supporters of organizations providing care for suffering people year-round.

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