I recently got an email from the Red Cross asking for donations of clothing, etc. After the information about when they would be picking up in our neighborhood, there was the following description of the work of the Red Cross:
Every day the Red Cross assists people who’ve lost their homes due to fire, floods, and other emergencies. We are all powerless against the forces of nature, of war, of life-threatening accidents or of diseases. Through the Red Cross, we are all empowered to change lives. Thank you for your support as the Red Cross embarks on this new initiative to further provide service in our community.
Powerless. That word caught my eye. Powerless over the forces of nature? Powerless over war? Powerless over life threatening accidents? Powerless over disease? This is a far too apathetic view of life for me. I think human beings have been given a lot of power and there are many ways that we can influence all of these things. We are not simply hapless victims.
Scientists tell us that many of the weather related problems that are experienced today are indications of global climate change which humans are definitely able to influence and impact. We are not powerless.
World leaders, diplomats, church leaders and others have the ability to guide situations of conflict and seek peaceful solutions. Humans have created war. People perpetuate war. There is much room for human influence when it comes to war. We cannot say that we are powerless over war.
And what about life threatening accidents? Yes, many tragedies occur that are accidents pure and simple. But many things also happen that could be prevented such as deaths from drunk driving. Or operating faulty equipment. Or failing to take proper safety precautions. Or not changing the battery in a smoke alarm. There are so many ways that life threatening accidents can be prevented or certainly diminished. We are not totally powerless over such occurrences.
Now we turn to disease. Yes, people get random illnesses and diseases that cannot be accounted for. It happens all the time. But medical science is helping us to understand the many ways that we can prevent disease and health problems involving diet, exercise, and healthy habits. When someone who has smoked cigarettes for decades gets lung cancer, it is sad, but can we say that the person was powerless over the disease? No.
Terrible tragedies occur. Things happen that we have no control over. Yesterday I mentioned our son’s friend that was hit by two cars and killed. That is a heartbreaking catastrophe. But there are many ways that we can exert our power as individuals and as a society to foster life and well-being. As the Red Cross says, “we are all empowered to change lives.” We do not need to accept powerlessness. In fact, our faith teaches us that we should not accept powerlessness. Our faith tradition promotes proactive agency and involvement. We all have power. A lot of power. This Lenten season is a time to think about how we can use that power for good in the world.
Prayer: We pray for all those who suffer the ravages of war and weather, disease and devastation. May we reach out to those who are suffering with love and compassion. Help us to recognize our power to change the world, to work for good, and to take care of ourselves and one another. May we love ourselves, each other, and the world as we are loved by God. May we care for each other as God’s precious family. Amen.