Last week I was in Newark Airport, ready to board a plane for Munich on my way back from the States. Next to me was a German mom helping her son with English homework. She was giving him words and he was supposed to give her the English translation. The kid was funny and smart - not that his answers were so correct, but they were creative to the point that he had me laughing as I tried to ignore him. Finally I talked to the mom and took the book and started drilling him myself. I used to be an English teacher in Germany, see. We all ended up laughing. The son asked me if I would like to switch seats with him during the flight so I could sit with his mom. I said sure. He squinted his eyes and said, "You don't happen to have a business class seat, do you?" Sly kid. Like I would have given that up. But good thing I didn't because his mom and I had a few hours of interesting, soulful conversation on the plane. Turns out she's Brazilian, living in Germany for years. We had gone to Germany as expats around the same time. So much in common. Her temperamental, warm Brazilian aura was hard for her to reconcile with the cool nature of German society. We discussed. We laughed. I even cried a bit. It was a lovely ending to a warm, emotional trip. We parted with kisses as I ran to make my connection. We talked about the feeling of being home, and how hard it is to define home after so many years of expat life.
And as we were laughing and discussing and philosophizing about the meaning of home at 38,000 feet, the world was being ripped open in Japan.
What a juxtaposition.
I have had a hard time absorbing the news this week. Every little thing feels like another slap, another bite. But it's more than that. I think I felt the mother of all useless emotions - guilt. Guilt that during that kind of trauma I was laughing, relaxing, enjoying. I was reading Chris Fosters's latest post when it dawned on me: I need to calm down and figure out what I want to do about this.
You see, I am all about the home. That's why I wanted to do a B&B - to give people a sense of home when they are far away from their own. I am not a fan of huge spaces. I like cozy, comfortable, stylish and reasonable spaces. I like sensible things. But more than anything, I honor, above all, the value of the home. Because without a home, we have no orientation, no direction, no starting place. Without a home, we are as good as lost.
When one of my dearest friends made me aware of a charity that provides emergency shelter in the most practical form in catastrophe - hit areas, I was intrigued. What could be more sensible than providing homeless and displaced families with a home, however humble and basic? What could make more sense than giving a family a point from which to start over?
I'm fortunate. I have shelter.
Fortunate enough to not have had to go through the trauma so many on the planet have experienced. I don't know what the future holds, so today is really the best gift ever. Today, I am fortunate enough to have shelter from the storm.
You're fortunate. You have shelter.
If you have people who love you, and you are warm and safe, and your belly is full, you are fortunate too. Every single one of you. Do something with your fortune. Don't sit on it and think it's boring and things are never going to go your way. Believe me, things are very much going your way.
Now it's time to give Japan shelter.
It can be a little donation, it can be big, but make it something. Don't take the cynical attitude that the money will never get there. My charity of choice for this catastrophy is Shelter Box . Shelter Box provides displaced families with a box. Each box contains a tent sufficent for 10 people, a children's pack with crayons and coloring books (for kids who have lost every little thing, this might be the most comforting thing of all), thermal blankets and insulated ground sheets, a hammer, saw, ax, wire cutters and shovel to get through what might be a portion of your destroyed home or to help dig a latrine, either a wood burning or multi fuel stove, pots, pans, dishes, and the box itself can be used as a small crib for a newborn.
Basically, you are supplying a family with a mini-home. I have a feeling Tammy Strobel would love this.
Each box has a value of about $1,000. Give what you can and another Japanese family will have found shelter from this reprehensible, catastrophic, terrifying, horrifying storm that doesn't seem like it will end any time soon.
I think I am going to send my new German-Brazilian friend an email and see how she's doing.