Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The smallest gifts...

I have been encouraged about the state of the world lately, and it's all due to the horrific earthquake tragedy in Haiti. One of the things about crises of this magnitude is that they tend to bring out the best in people. Sometimes the worst, too, but for now I'm happy to focus on the world's generosity.

Here in Miami with our very large Haitian community, the earthquake, its victims and its miracles have been front page news and top-of-the newscast stories ever since it happened on January 12. For us, it's not just an international story, it's local. Almost everyone I know has been touched in one way or another by what happened. My favorite security guard where I live, though born here himself, still has family living in Haiti. Talking to him has brought the tragedy home for me. Even without that connection, though, the stark images on TV would have been shattering.

And what those images have done is mobilize a level of giving that awes and amazes me. Thousands, if not millions, have used text messaging to make a Red Cross donation of $10, proving that no amount of money is too small to make a difference. Celebrities have come together for a telethon that raised millions. Companies have looked for ways to generate donations. In fact, the other day as I was ordering Valentine's cookies from, I discovered that they have "Hearts for Haiti" cookies, and will donate 20% of the proceeds for those to the cause. I ordered some of those in addition to the varieties I was already ordering as gifts. Their cookies, by the way, are fabulous. Someone sent me some for Christmas and I can only thank heaven that they have to be ordered, rather than bought at a neighborhood store, or I'd be addicted. But I digress...

One of the best examples of giving that I've heard or read about, though, came on ABC News the other night. A little boy in England decided to ride his bike around a park to raise money for Haiti. As of the news report, he'd raised something like 160,000 pounds, which by my not-necessarily-accurate calculations is in the $300,000 range. Questioned about his little neighborhood project, he said with a sense of awe, "It's gone mad." And isn't it wonderful that it has?

Because the truth is that the best kind of charity comes from individuals who want desperately to help others, whether they're in their neighborhood or around the world. When tragedy strikes, the best among us want to do something to reach out. Whether the gift is large or small, whether it's cash or time or lies in the abilities of some of the volunteer rescuers who flew in on their own dime to aid in survival miracles, it's the outstretched hand that matters...and gives us all hope.

If you've done nothing up till now, it's not too late. It will take years and most likely billions of dollars to repair the damage done by this earthquake, and that's not even considering the human suffering in this very, very poor country not far from our shores. Whether your donation is a dollar, ten dollars, or more, do what you can to make a difference. Most newspaper and TV websites have lists of all the legitimate organizations who would welcome your help. You may even have local churches or charities which are giving aid. One small gift, whatever it may be, serves as a reminder that no matter where we live or how dire our own situation, we can always hold out a helping hand to others in need.

Sherryl Woods


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