The American Reporter
ONE NATION, UNITED AFTER ALL
OMAHA, Neb. -- The early news reports alternated between the Tsunami disasters in Indonesia a year ago today and the day-after-Christmas shoppers at the mall - any mall - anywhere in the country. We're all alike.
Our eyes go from unspeakable hardships on our tv screen, lighting up the dawn in cold but snow-free Omaha, to the embarrassment of riches scattered around under the twinkling Christmas tree, gifts not yet placed in the personal spaces that will make them all our own.
My eyes go back to the television. I am a little more subdued as I take in the scenes; a boy is slapping the water with a stick to stir up the idling fish and drive one or two toward his net. Do I detect an air of vengeance in each swipe he takes? Does he feel some justification in fighting the water that claimed his family, his village?
I defy anyone to look at that scene: a smiling boy with two fish in his net that will yield the equivalent of 50 cents - enough to get by for one more day, and not wonder what we can do to help. Who am I? How can I help?
Time magazine's annual feature, "Person of the Year," chose this year a cadre of people who have made a difference by providing and sending help where it is needed. The high-profile choices were multibillionaires Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, and the Irish singer Bono.
Also featured were former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who put aside politics and joined together to spearhead fund-raising efforts that gathered many millions of dollars for tsunami relief. Then they returned to their homes - only to come together again to raise funds for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which devastated America's Gulf Coast. I was proud of them for working tirelessly and together - (And I don't mean to undermine their efforts, but, really, who's dispersing the cash?)
As I consider the alternating news reports this quiet morning, I'm amazed at the energy of the "door-busters" racing into a Target store as doors open at 6:00 a.m., then scrambling along the aisles. It used to be that only Christmas wrap and greeting cards where half-price on December 26; now it's everything you could ask for at 60 percent off.
The reporters are at the Omaha Mall, the second largest in the nation (followed by malls in Atlanta, Baltimore and New Jersey). In they burst, and my only thought is, yes, America is definitely becoming more obese by the day. These shoppers are not picky eaters!
CNN is interviewing a quiet, rather retiring woman of indeterminate age - perhaps 65 - and ill-at-ease in front of the cameras. Her name is Sara Henderson and is being interviewed because she adopted a village in Asia following the 2005 tsunami.
Henderson once lived for 15 years in the area that was so devastated, and decided a year ago today she would have to do something. In March, perhaps driven by the adage, "If not I, who?" she went there.
Although she is American and from New York, she spoke the languages of Indonesia and knew the land. She traveled the coast until she found an area where villagers were struggling to survive on their own. Then she decided to adopt them - not one person at a time, but the whole village. The size of the village was determined by how much of her own money she could safely spend.
She formed a foundation, www.buildingbridgestothefuture.org, and quietly reminded those listening at 6:00a.m. that a dollar helps, and three dollars helps more. People must understand that.
Hey, I have a dollar; I even have three. There occasionally comes a moment when we trust. We acknowledge we are presented with opportunities to do what we wanted to do all along but just didn't quite trust. Either we didn't trust those in charge, or we didn't trust that money or goods would get to those needing help, or, perhaps we took some other easy way out of following through by doing "the right thing."
First, Sara built homes, just basic huts on stilts; then she built a woman's center - there are many widows faced with decisions they never had to make. Once the village has homes, each family can function on its own pretty much as it did in the past. They don't want a handout, they want a leg up, she said.
And the news of the day continues with "What if?" What if the tsunami had hit California? What if one should strike in the future? Are we prepared?
The weather pundits use red drawing outlines showing how much of California might be destroyed. That's the proverbial drawing board in action. Will they get it all figured out and then hope for the best? Once a big tsunami hits, there is no "back to the drawing board."
We'll never know unless it strikes. What's ahead? I don't know, but I do know we're all in this together. We are more than one nation: We are one world, and the disaster in Indonesia and all areas in the path of the 2005 tsunami shows us how much we need each other.
Neighbor, can you spare a dollar, or three?
Visit longtime AR Correspondent Constance Daley at her Website, www.skylinetoshoreline.com.