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Ebb and Flow

By DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / November 9, 1998

Back when I was in our high school choir, more years ago than I care to remember, we sang those sappy, sentimental songs at graduation and other special events. The words to some of those songs are still etched in mymemory. One I recall especially is “No Man is an Island.” I don’t rememberwho wrote it, but I remember these words: “No man is an island; no man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me; each man’s grief is my own.”Now, I have to admit when I was a teen-ager, those words didn’t mean a whole lot to me. But, as I grow older and, I hope, wiser, the meaningbecomes clearer.

We are all connected in this circle of life, all of us. Our families, ourneighbors, people we encounter on the street, the people who live in faraway places that we may never visit.

This week, as we watch television reports from Central America, many of us are horrified at the death and destruction and human suffering visited upon the people of those countries by Hurricane Mitch. It’s only human forus to look at these scenes with a mixture of dismay and helplessness and a little twinge of thankfulness that it’s not happening to us.

But in fact, it is happening to us. When one man suffers, we all do.I never thought of myself as a do-gooder and, to be truthful, I’ve looked upon some of those I’ve labeled as do-gooders with a little skepticism.

What’s in it for them? I think now I’ve found part of the answer.

Look into the faces of relief workers and other volunteers who give of their time and monetary resources to aid others.

What do you see? Fatigue, yes. Fear, yes. Frustration, yes.Surely I don’t need to be more tired and worried than I already am trying to provide for my own family and keep up with the responsibilities I’ve already committed myself to.

But look a little deeper into their eyes. What more do you see?Freedom and joy.

This year I made the commitment to become a Red Cross volunteer. I’vetaken several training classes to prepare myself to assist in disaster relief. Hands-on experience came quicker than I imagined it would.When Tropical Storm Frances threatened several neighborhoods near me, I was part of a team providing canteen service to those in the community who were feverishly filling sandbags in an effort to protect their homes.

It amazed me that so many other people whose homes were not threatened had come out with their shovels to work long into the night to help their neighbors. Their appreciation for the food and drinks we provided spurredon my own efforts and those of other volunteers to work harder.

I’ve come to realize how truly liberating it is to get out of myself even for a few minutes and become part of an effort that’s bigger than all of us.

Sometimes, it’s very difficult. Like many of you reading this, my time isvery precious. We’ve spread ourselves so thin that sometimes work andfamily obligations make it hard to find even a few minutes that we can give. Sometimes I feel guilty that I can’t help out more.Yes, it feels overwhelming. And in the face of the massive destructionwe’ve witnessed this week, we find ourselves drowning in the immensity of it all. What can one person like me do to alleviate some of the sufferingin the face of this massive destruction? In times like these, we wonder why someone somewhere can’t just go in and fix everything. Well, none of us can fix it alone. But each one of us canfix a little bit.

Each man, woman and child is capable of providing something. Instead ofwringing our hands in helplessness, we can clean out our pantries and medicine cabinets and take items to organizations that are collecting them. If we don’t have the time to do that, we can write a check to theAmerican Red Cross and designate it for Honduran relief. You can give ofyour time to collect relief assistance from friends and neighbors.

Most of us are just waiting to be asked.

This week I made a delivery of canned foods and medical supplies to a local organization that has connections to a ship leaving for Honduras.

Yes, I cleaned out my own pantry and closet. I had lunch with some friendsand mentioned to them that I would be delivering these items and asked if there was anything they’d like to contribute. Within a few hours, I hadseveral more bags of groceries.

I told my 6-year-old granddaughter, Carley, what was happening in Honduras and Nicaragua. She thought it would be nice to give one of herdolls to a child there. The next morning, she invited her classmates to helpin the relief effort.

My sister and mother heard what my granddaughter was doing and brought boxes of their own, filled with canned goods, baby items and medical supplies.

As I write, my doorbell rings. It’s my friend, Elaine, with a bag of cannedfood to contribute.

Within a half-hour, Shelby and Mae had also stopped by.

It really does have a snowball effect when people are given the opportunity to give of themselves. My van wasn’t full when I made mydelivery. But there was enough in there to feed a family for several weeks.And nourishment for a couple of weeks can maybe get one family healthy enough to put their lives back together.

It may not seem like much, but when I think of my efforts matched by the efforts of others like me and my friends and their friends, maybe we can make a dent. Maybe we can each help one man and woman put their homesback together. Maybe we can each keep one child from starving.The most amazing part of it all is that everything we give comes back to up tenfold. It fills me with awe. Yes, there is something much bigger thaneach of us at work in the world.

And, as fellow travelers in the infinite circle of life, what more can we ask?

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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