I’m trying to get my head around 10,000 people. That’s the current estimate for how many people perished in the typhoon in the Philippines this week. Japan had almost 16,000 confirmed dead after the earthquake in 2011. And those numbers pale in comparison to the 200,000 people that died when the tsunami ripped through Indonesia in 2004. I’m trying to picture it, trying to capture it with my heart and it’s difficult.
It’s so much easier to comprehend one individual story than 10,000, 200,000 all at once. One person, one face I can picture. But when you start getting into the hundreds and thousands… it just feels so massive. It’s overwhelming.
I’ve never experienced anything like it myself, so in order to tap into empathy I have to imagine it happening to me. I have to see the buildings outside my window crumble and fall to the ground, the cars in the street picked up by great big waves and crashed about like so much flotsam. I have to think what would I do right now if an earthquake hit? If I couldn’t get to my brother and my sister-in-law and my nephew? If I was one of the lucky ones and survived, helping the injured and the elderly to safety, if safety was there to be found. And all the while struggling to find a way to reach my family, to tell them I was OK, hoping they were still alive.
Then I can do it. That’s what millions of people are facing right now in the Philippines. It’s horrible to consider, too horrible really. But I think I need to. I think we all do. We’ll go about our day, us lucky ones, enjoying the sunshine or the rain and getting annoyed when someone cuts us off in traffic, but underneath it all I hope we can remember that we’re the lucky ones today. I hope we can bear in our minds and hearts all the millions who are not.
I hope we can keep them close and remember to pray.
May you and you and you and you and all of you and you and you and all you millions of you
May you be safe
May you be peaceful
May you be healthy
May you be happy
May you be free
I know it’s like spitting at the sun. I know it. But it makes it real. It makes it human. And it’s so easy to turn away, and we mustn’t do that. We must attend.