Here’s a letter I wrote to the members of the Rationalists of East Tennessee, an organization I’m associated with. While it targets members of the organization, anybody who reads it here is perfectly welcome to contribute as well. If you wish to inquire for further details, email me at daryl at learnhouston.com.
This week, as we all know, hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf. I grew up on the outskirts of hurricane country and, while I was always nervous when bad weather approached, hurricanes were fairly commonplace and seldom seemed to do much damage as far inland as I lived. We’d gather up some candles, bundle my beachfront grandmother up to come stay further inland, and weather the storms from a pretty safe distance (though a few years ago, a hurricane obliterated the comfortable little town I grew up in). But Katrina’s a different story. Even as far inland as Knoxville, I was affected by the hurricane, losing power for four hours on Tuesday night when (I assume) heavyish winds blew down power lines that feed my neighborhood. You should have heard me griping about hating rain and having no air conditioning and having to reset the stinking clocks and — horror of horrors — missing one of my favorite prime-time TV shows. This hurricane was such a raging pain in the neck for me.
How petty I’ve felt while watching reports of the situation in the Gulf area over the past few days. Houses are in splinters. There are still people hiding in their attics, chest-deep in water. People are dying for lack of medication and from the heat. Others are wandering around grimly looking for lost family members. Perfectly moral, law-abiding citizens are being reduced to theft so that they and their families can survive. That could be my family. I feel an acidic rush of despair when I see lethargic, hungry babies in the reports (usually while my baby plays on a junk-heap of toys, well-fed and happy). That could be my baby going hungry.
Think for a minute about your grocery bill. A can of vegetables costs less than a dollar. A meal’s worth of ground beef or chicken for one person can be had for a dollar or so. A loaf of bread costs a buck or two. Two or three dollars will keep a baby in clean diapers for a day, and an infant can be fed a good meal for a buck and a half. Every ten or so dollars donated might keep another person fed for another day. If every member of RET donated $10, we could feed about 60 people for a day.
As humanists, we’re proud to be concerned with this life and its quality rather than with any hereafter. Accordingly, when we see so much suffering and chaos, when we see so many thousands of other human beings savaged by loss and exhaustion and bereft of human dignity, it is incumbent upon us to help in what ways we can, however modest or generous. I challenge each of you to donate more to the Red Cross than you’re especially comfortable donating. Skip a dinner out so that you can tack another $30 onto your donation. Skimp on your own groceries in the coming week so that you can donate the difference and help feed someone in dire need of help. If you have airline miles, you can even donate those through the American Red Cross Web site to help with the mobilization of resources. Please do what you can (and then some) to help those who are displaced and suffering as a result of the hurricane.
RET is accepting donations earmarked for hurricane relief and will send the full amount of any such donations to the American Red Cross next week. If you’d like to donate through RET, please write “Hurricane Relief” in the memo line of your check and send to the address below or deliver to me in person as soon as possible. We’d like to get funds to the American Red Cross by midweek. As RET is a non-profit organization, your donation will be tax deductible; we’ll be happy to provide receipts upon request.
Rationalists of East Tennessee
P.O. Box 51634
Knoxville, TN 37950