By Mary Summerbell
As I write, Hurricane Irma races across the Atlantic, smashing at Cuba, roaring towards Florida, leaving in her deadly wake the eastern Caribbean – Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas. This bigger-than-Texas sized hurricane, a record breaker by several measures, has already caused immeasurable devastation – through evacuation and destruction making many locations all but uninhabited, some uninhabitable. Where once was paradise, or home, at least, now is rubble and flood and mud.
The range and depth of Irma’s damaging power almost overshadows other recent and current natural disasters – hurricanes Harvey, José and Katia, earthquakes in Mexico, Italy, China. This one particular event, in its immensity, its massiveness, its magnitude, stretches our imaginations, as we try to comprehend it. And how can our hearts not be touched to our very depths, as we watch the news reports and ponder the ongoing effects of this super storm on so many places and so many people? 20.6 million people in Florida alone, 5.6 million of them leaving the state – most not taking much with them but dread and hope for what they’ll find when they go back.
A life-changing experience for millions, for sure. And it’s far from over. It’s never over, really. By the time you are reading this, Irma will have done her worst. The people hit by her, and those who can help them, will be evaluating, planning and directing the return and rebuilding. But as long as people inhabit this planet we will face the challenges of disasters – natural and self-inflicted.
Against all this, it’s easy to let ourselves feel helpless or defeated. But that’s not constructive or productive for anyone. And it feels bad. Really bad. Instead, we can care. Care – a noun or a verb – something that is, or something you do; a state of being or an action. Care means attention, protection, concern. To “take care of” is to attend to someone’s needs.
Once we feel that compassionate impulse – a sincere desire to help make life easier or better for others, for everyone – it naturally finds personal expression. There are many obvious, practical ways to be of service. Reach out spontaneously as opportunities come up. And plan regular contributions. Give blood. Donate time and/or money to worthy causes. Support reputable aid organizations. Connect with a church, business, volunteer group, community organization and/or local authorities to communicate, cooperate and combine efforts to give what is truly needed. Find existing networks and plug yourself in according to your time and abilities. Do what feels right for you.
But don’t overdo. We all have limits in time and space. Logically, if we respond directly to every issue we care about, we are quite quickly exhausted. But sometimes, no matter what we do, or how much, we wish we could do more. Especially at times like this, with such vast damage happening. Such extremely tragic events just keep coming up in our consciousness, prodding us to push past our limits.
I’ve learned a way to give that “something more” without self-depleting. I believe we can help by just caring. It’s simple. Whatever we care about, we think of it, and say we care. For example, when we find ourselves thinking of the storm survivors, we say, “I care about all the people and all the places affected by the storms.” Or just, “I care.” By doing this we are paying attention to them, sending our thoughts and feelings to them. It works with anything and everything we care about. Our focus can be very specific, or as expansive and inclusive as we please.
These thoughtful, heartfelt proclamations create connections – between us and others, and to the All. By making the simple, basic statement “I care” – with intention – daily, repeatedly, as often as we like – whenever what we care about comes to mind – we call on the elements and energies of this world and this universe to serve those in need of help, support, encouragement. With these words we direct resources that reach to where we cannot physically be.
This practice is not to replace direct involvement, or an easy escape from doing our share of the hard work that needs to be done for a better world. It’s a method to extend our efforts to serve beyond our limited physical capabilities. It is a metaphysical way to work with all the forces of the Universe to serve a Greater Good. It’s a way to care as a state of being beyond our caring actions a way to care beyond caring. So, whatever else you do – please care. Just care.