by Father Mark Goldasich
I ask myself this question often, especially after reading the morning newspaper.
There’s so much worrisome news: the uptick in COVID-19 cases; every sort of crime imaginable (and some even unimaginable); swaths of people lacking shelter, food or medical care; innumerable wars or vicious oppression; and multitudes who have lost hope in things getting better.
In light of these serious issues, there’s no shortage of panels being convened to study the problems, statements being issued to acknowledge the needs and letters being written to denounce the injustices. While all these things serve some purpose, they remind me of the following little story:
A Native American man attended a Sunday morning worship service. The sermon had little in the way of spiritual food or practical advice and was delivered in a loud voice. Although a faithful Christian, the Native American man wasn’t impressed.
On the way out of church, the minister asked if he liked the sermon. He replied, “High wind, big thunder, no rain!” (Adapted from a story found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “Fresh Packet of Sower’s Seeds: Third Planting.”)
That’s how I sometimes feel when, after reading the news, I just wring my hands in worry. All the talking and squawking we do means little if we don’t produce rain, that is, if we don’t take positive steps to change things for the better.
There’s a little-known celebration coming up on Aug. 19 that can motivate people to action. Called World Humanitarian Day, it was founded by the U.N. General Assembly in 2009 in response to the deaths of 22 U.N. aid workers in a bombing in Baghdad six years earlier.
One victim was Sergio Vieira de Mello, who worked three decades both to bring relief to victims of war and help people in the First World gain a different perspective on war, “focusing on the innocent human lives who struggled to survive and were caught in conflicts they had no desire to be a part of.” (Quote is from the nationaltoday.com website.)
A humanitarian worker, often at great risk, provides “rain” in the world, “promoting social reforms and human welfare, and [holding] no prejudice with human suffering on grounds of religion . . . gender or territory.”
In essence, each Christian is called to be a humanitarian. But with needs so great around the world, the temptation is to sit back and do nothing because we can’t hope to do it all. Perhaps this story can inspire us:
One day, a small boy went door to door carrying a little tin can. After knocking at one house, the door was opened by an elderly man who asked the boy what he was doing.
“I’m collecting money to help hungry people in the world to eat,” replied the boy.
“And how much are you hoping to collect?” asked the man.
“A million dollars!” replied the child.
Stunned, the man asked, “And do you think you’re going to collect that all by yourself?”
“Oh, no,” said the boy. “My buddy is getting donations on the next block.”
Wow, to have this kid’s optimism!
Why not celebrate World Humanitarian Day by doing something small? You can:
• Donate to a humanitarian organization, like Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Near East Welfare Association or Catholic Home Missions.
• Do some humanitarian work in your community, like volunteer at a homeless shelter or serve as an after-school tutor for underprivileged children.
• Teach others about humanity’s needs: about one in nine people go to bed hungry every night; over 65 million people are displaced; some two billion people lack clean water; and millions of children have no access to schools.
May God move each of us from simply wishing it would “rain” to really making it pour!
You can also support the Sergio Vieira de Mello Center by visiting the Center at http://www.sergiovieirademello.org