Since the natural disasters, and while still in the midst of the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, I have chosen to do what most of us do when distant tragedy strikes: I continue with my regular daily routine. I switch off the live news coverage. I shop for groceries. I write my thesis. I laugh. I breathe. Despite these signs of normalcy, I feel guilty at times, helpless at others, and in certain moments, I feel nothing at all. Japan haunts my mind, aches my heart, and makes me feel like I can and/or should do something.
So, I ask: What is there for me to do?
Some of us are able to donate money (see below for recommendations). Some of us are able to donate time. Some of us are skilled medical professionals or engineers or emergency workers and can offer immediate, practical aid. Still, there must be something that each one of us – regardless of age, economic, racial, ethnic, religious, or geographical status – can/should do when this kind of tragedy strikes.
In a recent statement on Japan’s traumatic events, Thich Nhat Hanh said: “The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body… An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.”
Thinking on these words, I considered that perhaps the answer is to simply allow ourselves to be affected. We can allow ourselves to mourn and to pray or meditate or paint or write or sing or do whatever it is that feels like a sacred offering to those who have passed as well as to those who continue to suffer. We can allow these natural forces to remind us of both our humanity and our interconnectedness.
And it is this very kind of massive reminder of global connectivity that we seem yet to require/need again and again. We are ALL at the mercy of an Earth who is bucking abusive populations of humans across the globe? We are all in this together (especially when it comes to manmade consequences like nuclear meltdowns).
For a most obvious example of our global interconnectivity, take a look at this visual depiction of the recent tsunami’s rippling effect.
Mother Nature emphasizes the power of the rippling effect. She reminds us of the infinite possibilities for changing Earth as we know it, how a shift in the ocean can submerge entire communities and annihilate even the most prepared of nuclear plants. Both frightening and inspiring is the natural disasters’ lesson to humankind: “Each time a man [or woman] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s]he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance” (Robert. F. Kennedy). A shift in the smallest portion of humanity could lead to a worldwide revolution. We still have the power to, at the very least, treat each other with compassion and humility. We might not be able to reverse our environmental impact, but we can (as my dear friend Anne Watanabe put its), at the very least, treat each other well during the little time we have left here.
So, is that what we can/should do in response to unprecedented tragedies such as this? Might we allow ourselves to be personally moved by what happens “somewhere else?” Might we transform that very empathy into action? Is now the time to quake with unconditional love and support for our brothers and sisters in Japan? After that, is it then the time to ask humankind to do better by our earth, by our children, and by each one of as fellow beings? Perhaps…
For now, I’ll allow myself to be affected by the thousands who are dying and the thousands more who were swept out to sea, and I’ll meditate on what it means to “live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.” Maybe I’m simply rippling in response to a shift in others.
For those who do have something monetary to give, we have received two recommendations from National JACL regarding donations for Japan Earthquake relief. The first was to the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, JCCCNC, and the second was to Direct Relief International. JCCCNC has recently issued an update on their activities:
“On March 11 we established the Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund and more than $130,000 of your donations have already been sent to the most affected areas to provide water, food, blankets and shelter supplies. One hundred percent of the donations are going directly to citizen relief efforts through the National YMCAs of Japan and other non-governmental organizations with which we have relationships since the Kobe earthquake of 1995. No fees are taken by JCCCNC or the organizations in Japan; funds go to the people who need it most but are often forgotten.
For JCCCNC tax deductible donations online, visit: http://www.jcccnc.org
For tax deductible donations by mail, make checks payable to “Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” and send to:
1840 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 941115
To make a tax deductible donation through Direct Relief International visit: http://www.directrelief.org and click “Donate” and select “Japan Relief and Recovery Fund.”