It's natural for ordinary people to feel a sense of guilt whenever there's a disaster that befalls others. This sense of guilt is common, for example, in an auto accident where someone dies, survivors may experience guilt, wishing there was something they could have done, or even thinking it isn't fair that their loved one is gone and they're still here.
The same scenario is often true in situations like Harvey. However, there's an additional aspect to the guilt, in which the inability to physically travel to the affected area to personally help the victims, or to provide financial help in the immediate aftermath, may cause well-intentioned people to even become depressed.
My encouragement is this: Don't lose the desire to help, but please don't feel guilty that you can't help right away in the ways you would like to. Instead, ask yourself these questions:
1. Are there opportunities in YOUR area to volunteer at a center where supplies are being packaged and loaded, then shipped to the affected area?
2. Is there a relief organization that you can volunteer with, not just now, but on a consistent basis (lots of people need help, year round, even in YOUR community)?
3 Can’t give now, but know that some cash is coming in soon – a tax return, a special occasion cash gift, etc? Take the money when it comes in and give it then! Remember, the relief work will be ongoing for a very long time! Donations can be shared with any reputable humanitarian organization, including Adventist Community Services and ADRA.
4. Can you organize a benefit event locally, earmarking the proceeds for the relief effort?
5. Don't forget about prayer! If you commit to praying for the disaster victims regularly, you will be rewarded both with settled emotions as well as with ideas about how you can be an agent of blessing, using 1-4 above.
While this is not an exhaustive list of possible ways to help from where you are, both physically and financially, it shows that there IS something you can do. Don't succumb to guilt. It only leads to depression, and depression leads to paralysis.
So... On your mark... Get set... GO!
Let's be about the business of being our brother's keeper.
Everton A. Ennis is pastor of the New Jerusalem Praise and Worship Center in Douglasville, Georgia