Our eyes are riveted to news updates about earthquakes, wars, and shootings, even though so much of it is depressing. But there can be other negative side effects.
Twenty-five years ago, Christine Pohl wrote, “News reports and documentaries broadcast the most terrible details of the lives of refugees or famine victims thousands of miles away, and regularly bring their faces and stories into the most intimate spaces of our homes.”
This, she says, can have two unintended but related effects. “A steady exposure to distant human need that is beyond our personal response can gradually inoculate us against particular action. It can also dilute us into thinking that by simply knowing about it we are somehow sharing in the suffering of others. Isolation from local need, and over exposure to overwhelming but distant need, make our responses to strangers uncertain and tentative at best.”*
What can we do to not become numb to those in need nearby or far away? One obvious option is to stop following the news, or at least to consume much less (for this and other reasons discussed here).
But then how would I know where to contribute when a crisis arises? Simply by giving to a relief organization you trust on a regular basis, regardless of whether or not there is a special need. Such crises, sadly, happen often. Send your gift to someone like the Red Cross, World Relief, Doctors Without Borders, or World Vision and designate it to “where needed most.”
Volunteering locally can also keep us from going numb. Tutoring, helping at a homeless shelter, and many other options are easy to find through your church, your library, or a quick web search. A neighbor recently joined me regularly at a food pantry, and she loves it.
Rather than constantly watching the news, these opportunities can put us in direct contact with people who need help and at the same time keep our hearts warm.
*Christine Pohl, Making Room (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 91.
Photo credits: Andrew T. Le Peau