“So Much Sufferring…So Little Attention?”

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Unless you have been living in a vacuum sealed tube these past few weeks you have seen plenty of news and social media focusing on the shooting of Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent protests and civil unrest. Each day tensions built and for nights there were confrontations and arrests in Ferguson, MO.
At the same time #Ferguson was trending both on social media and in the public conversation, civilians–men, women, and children were being killed in Gaza as the conflict between Palestinians and Israel escalated.
Also, many of us were challenged by friends to take the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” where people were asked to pour a bucket of ice water on their head and donate $10 to support research and treatment for what is a somewhat little known debilitating disease. Somehow in the midst of the ice bucket challenge, Gaza, and Mike Brown’s killing a war of words emerged about “what is worth doing.” Some people claimed they were not doing the Ice bucket challenge because there were more serious causes to attend to. I understand, but I also know that the human mind can only process so much suffering at a time.
On Friday I was driving to a community event that is a fun gathering of people and music that I had been looking forward to. A hot summer day, live and recorded music, good food, and great people–it sounded wonderful. However, on my car radio I heard a broadcast about a 10 year old boy in Monrovia, Liberia shivering naked on a beach with a crowd of about 50 people surrounding him. He was suffering from Ebola and the crowd was afraid to touch him. Out of nowhere someone produced a red t-shirt for him to put on but he was too weak to put it on by himself. Finally, the reporter and his crew produced some rubber gloves and two middle-aged women stepped forward to help the child. Then some people found a large piece of cardboard and the women got the boy onto it and he was dragged from the beach to an alleyway where an emergency team finally picked him up to take him to a clinic. Sadly, the child did not make it through the night. The reporter was overcome with a sense of sadness and helplessness as he tried to describe how horrible it was to witness a child dying. I was overwhelmed just listening to this story and tears steamed down my cheeks.
This story was about somebody’s 10 year old baby. He was alone and helpless and had become a public spectacle in his sickness and nakedness. No one was throwing ice water over his or her head for him. No one was protesting in the streets for him. No high level diplomat was going to convene talks on his behalf. He would suffer and die all by himself.
The world is filled with suffering and there is no hierarchy of “my suffering is greater than yours.” If you are doing ANYTHING to alleviate suffering (of any kind) I don’t think I have a right to judge you. Just keep doing your part. What do you think?

Stay Black & Smart!

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2 thoughts on ““So Much Sufferring…So Little Attention?”

  1. Gloria, I’m really glad that you posted this. As you may have guessed, I don’t like to say anything that can be construed as criticism—so a lot of times I just stay quiet. Honestly, as far as the ice bucket challenge, I’m not feeling it. A friend (a woman of color, a Latina) and I were discussing this. I think it’s GREAT that people are calling attention to ALS, and I think that the young man who is personally affected by it, whose friends started the challenge in his name, and who has testified in front of Congress, is admirable. I would also like to see more people getting behind the Ebola plight — and having walked and raised money to build wells in Ethiopia, I can appreciate how precious water is, so I have a different view of using water in this way (the challenge). I really resonate with your caution not to get into the “suffering olympics”, etc. As long as we all do our part, we can make progress. Goodness knows, you are committed to service and I admire your generosity of time and effort, not just donations . I wish more people followed that example. I fear that some may be using the Ice Bucket Challenge as an opportunity for 15 minutes of (Facebook) fame or the more famous are using it as good public relations, because it’s a “safe” cause.

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