We’ve all witnessed the 9.0 Earthquake in Japan, the tsunami that followed and the ongoing concerns of a nuclear meltdown, causing what’s being called the worst disaster in Japan since WWII. My thoughts go out to my family and friends in Japan, and to all the people of Japan that are going through this tragedy in one way or another.
It’s been truly amazing to witness the strength and character of the Japanese people as they pull together to help each other. Japan has demonstrated to the world that people can show love and respect for each other, even in the worst of times. People behaving orderly, no looting or riots, risking lives to help others – if we all behaved like this during the worst of times, the world would be a much better place!
On a personal level, witnessing this tragedy (along with other such tragedies in the past) caused me to struggle with a couple of things. I’m very skeptical of a lot of charities, and so the first thing I struggled with was finding ways that I could help. During great disasters like this, so many charities are asking for donations. Many of them pop up out of nowhere. Also out of nowhere, your facebook wall is plastered with groups asking for support or asking to add a button to your picture.
While I realize there are many legitimate charities, I’ve also read and heard so many stories of groups taking donations and pocketing most (or all) of the money. Or facebook groups that use this opportunity to gain more followers or access your personal information for personal gain.
How You Can Help
With these things in mind, I thought about ways I could help. Here’s a few things that I decided I could do to help:
Show your concern - This may not seem like much help, but it is. My wife is Japanese, and we have family and friends in Japan. As soon as the news broke, we began receiving calls, emails and texts from friends around the world letting us know how sorry people were, asking if our family is ok, and offering to help in any way possible.
A gentleman in our office complex stopped by our office to ask my wife about her family, and to say how sorry he was for what was happening. This was someone that we really don’t know, other than saying “hi” in passing.
We were so moved by the support we received. Making a phone call seems like such a small thing, but in times like this its just what we need!
Keep the people of Japan in your thoughts - If you’re religious, pray for them to get through this disaster quickly and with no more deaths and destruction. If you’re spiritual, keep positive thoughts for the same things.
Donate to a charity to help Japan - This is the area that I really struggle with. How can I trust that my donation is going to help the people of Japan, and not to pay someones million dollar salary? How can I be sure that they will make the best use of this money? Are they already established in Japan so that they’ll be able to help in time?
There’s a website called Charity Navigator that independently evaluates and rates charities, along with great advice to prevent you from being scammed and make sure your money gets used the way you intend it to.
Visit Charity Navigator here to find a charity to donate to for the Japan disaster relief, and also for tips to make sure your money goes to use in Japan. Here’s just a few of the tips they give to keep you from being scammed:
- Avoid newly formed charities and give to an established charity that has done work in Japan
- Designate your Investment
- Think before you text
- Beware of emails or phone calls soliciting donations
- Do not send supplies
- Visit here to see all of their great tips for donating
Another good source is your local Consulate General of Japan. The Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles has a page with information for making a direct donation, which is sent directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society. Check with your local Consulate General of Japan if you’d like to donate directly.
Every bit helps. A quick phone call, a small donation, anything you can do to help goes a long way.
What You Can Learn From This
The second area I struggled with was the reminder that so often we take our lives for granted. Why do we need such a terrible disaster to remind us to call our loved ones? Or to remind us that we shouldn’t fight over stupid things. Or maybe, instead of wasting 4 hours a day watching TV, we should spend that time talking with a loved one.
The normal cycle seems to be:
- Something bad happens – death of a loved one, major world disaster, or some other tragedy
- After the initial shock, we begin calling friends and family
- We ponder on how precious life is and how we don’t want to waste what little time we have here
- time goes on and we begin taking things for granted again, until the next tragedy
Why is it that when things go bad, we think “why is my life so bad?” Could it be that our life is not bad, but our attitude is? These tragic events really put things in perspective, but unfortunately for many of us it’s a short-lived perspective.
Let’s break this cycle, and be thankful everyday for the things in our lives! We all have so much to be grateful for if you stop to think about it. Start each day thinking about what you’re grateful for. Tell that special person in your life that you love them. Make that phone call to your friend you’ve been meaning to call for months. Turn off the TV and have a deep conversation with your partner.
Life is so precious and goes by so quickly, let’s take this opportunity to learn from this painful reminder and be grateful for everything in our lives. Live your life to the fullest so when your day comes, you know you lived the best life possible.
Image courtesy of http://triciarennea.blogspot.com/ – Thank you for the beautiful picture!
Disclaimer: We do not recommend any specific charity. If you decide to make a donation, please do your research to make sure that your donation will be used as intended.