Thursday, December 30, 2004

A Tsunami of Tears and Prayers 

Once you've spent time in a place and gotten to know some of its people, you gain a sense of connectedness to it. It’s an awareness that settles in slowly, as the country’s dust gathers on your feet and its people congregate in your heart. The place becomes a part of you, like your childhood bedroom or your first car. Your definition of “you” now carries with it this place, these people.

In 1980 I spent time in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Southern India, so those countries and their people are part of who I am today. I cannot read the Tsunami news or look at the pictures or video of the disaster without thinking of the people I once knew there, of the landscape that’s still fresh in my mind more than 24 years later. For the past few days I have been sitting here at my PC and discovered tears leaking from my eyes as I read about this disaster.

It’s easy, I think, to have a sense of disconnect when a disaster happens so very, very far away; someplace you’ve never been and likely will never go. I think most Americans will look at the Tsunami pictures and read the stories and say “oh, how tragic,” and then refocus on their own lives; their own challenges. It’s only natural.

But because of my connection to these places, I can’t seem to do that. I can’t get these people out of my mind.

The brother and sister pictured below are two such people. The pair, who would now be in their 30s, God willing, lived in a very tiny, very poor village on the road between Mahabalapuram and Madras (now called Chennai). The boy, Morgan, gripped my hand tightly and led me around his village as though I were his “show and tell” specimen for the day. He was so proud to take me to his tiny lean-to of a home and introduce me to his mother as his "new American friend." I remember his mother sitting on the ground, stirring the contents of a battered pot on top of a campfire and shyly offering me something to eat. His sister, a bit more shy, watched from afar, only coming near when I broke out the packs of gum I had brought as a treat for the children I knew I was bound to meet.



These are just two of the faces that I look for in every picture and video of the Tsunami's aftermath. I hope they are alive and well and helping others to survive. I hope that I can figure out a way to help their countries. I hope you can too.

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