Upon awakening on Sunday morning a couple weeks ago, I was greeted by my husband's advisory: "The town of Parkersberg was demolished last night by a tornado. Seven dead." Horror and trembling galvanized me. I had slept peacefully through the storm. These others didn't wake up that morning, not so very far away from me, in a little town I've been acquainted with off-and-on over the years. Unfortunately in the path of an EF-5 tornado, it was effectively eliminated.
The Iowa news media blanketed the state with coverage of the devastation and its aftermath. Iowans poured forth volunteer assistance and donations. Nice.
I've mused these two weeks since on the tens of thousands dead in Myranmar from a cyclone. And, there's no forgetting the earthquake in China where thousands of people died or are missing, and more than 270,000 were injured. The China earthquake left an estimated five million people homeless, with over 200,000 recently evacuated for fear of flooding. Despite the overwhelming magnitude of these events, the disaster in tiny Parkersberg wielded the greater emotional impact to me.
I suspect that the greater the heart and the more well-developed the individual's morality, the more that person can transcend "the proximity factor" in allowing her/his heart to be moved. It's only when my vision perceives "the other" as "related to me" that I'm willing to extend myself in a generous, compassionate response.
The challenge, then, is to make my heart bigger and see myself as part of the whole. I want to keep pushing "the proximity factor" into ever lengthening measures.