If the Japan earthquake and tsunami had happened 100 years ago, most of us would not even be aware that it had happened. Perhaps a telegram would have been sent to the U.S. and perhaps a small story might have appeared in major newspapers, but other than that, it would have had little effect on our consciousness.
So why is today any different? In a word, awareness. The connectedness of our world today brings the trauma and pain of Japan into our living rooms with gut wrenching emotional force. The result is that we cannot turn away. As human beings we are, by nature, empathetic to the suffering of others. But that empathy is not triggered as acutely by sterile "page ten" newspaper articles, as it is by the vivid and shocking images of human suffering bombarding our TVs, computers and iPads, causing even our children to ask what we can do to help. I think that most of us --as we have watched the events unfold in Japan-- have thought to ourselves: "What if this had happened to us?"
Last night on our local news in Seattle, a rescue worker was interviewed as he prepared to leave for Japan. He had also deployed last year to Haiti. The reporter asked why he felt compelled to go, and he answered with words that many of us feel: "I just have to respond. The world is a smaller place today. It's about 'loving our neighbors as ourselves,' and it doesn't matter if they are right here or halfway around the world." Indeed, it is about "loving our neighbors as ourselves"--the very thing Jesus called "the second greatest commandment."
Here on the northwest coast of the U.S., we live on the same volcanic, "ring of fire" as Japan, and are vulnerable in the same way to earthquakes. Driving to work this morning over our vital bridges and highways, I thought about what might happen if such an earthquake hit Seattle. I shuddered at the possibility. This really could happen to us, I thought. And if it does, I pray that the rest of the world will also see us as their neighbor. Because we will surely need some friends.
Join me in praying for our neighbors in Japan, that they would find peace and comfort in the days ahead.
Read related posts: Skype interview with World Vision relief worker in Japan, Japan quake and tsunami updates + video, and 8.9-magnitude earthquake hits coast of Japan, island nations face tsunami warning