I originally wrote the following as a quick note on Facebook, but I thought I'd share it here as well.
The tragic events that have taken place in Japan, predictably, have had everyone talking and sending their prayers, condolences and the like. In true Facebook fashion, some have taken the opportunity to jump on the fashionable sympathy bandwagon (a trend that seems to have begun in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death and has since stuck), while others have used the events as a call to everyone to take Jesus/Buddha/Krishna to their hearts.
Invariably, this is bound to happen. Everyone has opinions and people are always desperate to offer their gushing sympathy to individuals, people and countries where tremendous suffering rears its ugly head. I've no doubt that a lot of the sympathy is indeed genuine, but of course there will be those who will always love to feign a compassionate side in the knowledge that they have an audience.
Whether we pray to God for the people and familes of Japan, whether the events inspire anyone to seek solace and comfort in spirituality, or whether we simply want to embrace the odd practice of passing on some symbolic logo around Facebook in the strange belief that somehow this actually makes a difference, none of these things serve any kind of puropse other than to provide us with a self-satisfaction that we've done our bit for our Japanes brothers and sisters, who we will no doubt have forgotten about in a month's time.
Rather than trying to outdo each other in the compassion stakes, I think the best way to pay respects to the people of Japan and recognise their suffering is by doing something for ourselves. That something is to realise that at any moment, at any time, our lives can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye. One week ago, the people of Japan would have never though they'd be facing what they are having to deal with today. Most probably, like us, they had plans for today that never-in-a-million-years would have included any measure of trying to survive and pull through a natural disaster that will change their lives forever. Of course, sitting here writing this, I'm aware that bad things only happen to other people, but then, no doubt last week some Japanese person was aware of exactly the same thing as he updated his Facebook page...
Another thing we could do for the Japanese people is to be thankful for what we have. Oh, I know - that old line. In the news reports this morning, I watched as hundreds of cars were floating along the streets, ships were over-turned and houses were destroyed. No doubt the people who owned the houses, the businesses, the cars and the boats worked very hard to have those things, and they probably took those things for granted, just like we do with what we have, as well taking life itself for granted. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it's true: you never know what life is going to throw your way next - we have absolutely no control over what can happen. Therefore, it makes sense that we might want to stop complaining about all the little trivial things we complain about and instead allow ourselves to feel a little gratitude for what's good in our own lives; the things we have and the people around us...how much of that do we all take for granted?
Not that praying to God or posting condolences to Japanese people you've never met and will soon forget about is wrong per se, but in my opinion, if we really want to pay our respects to these people and anyone else who has/will suffer from these tragic events, the very best way to do that is by being grateful for everything we have in our own lives. Those people have had everything taken from them and they'd give anything to have their lives back as they were.
Now think of all the trivial things you complain about, realise how lucky you actually are and then dedicate that thought to the people of Japan and pray to whichever God is yours that they can pull through this awful time and once again find relative normality, happiness and peace in their lives.