Yesterday, I opened up my BBC news browser and found myself face to face with the news of the earthquake in Indonesia. The first thing I did was check the location of the earthquake. A dear friend of mine (affectionately called Duckie) lives in the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, on the island of Java. I discovered that the earthquake did not take place on Java but on Sumatra, and that allayed my fears for a moment. But the news coming from the island of Sumatra is only getting worse, and this is just one of four natural disasters to strike the Asia Pacific area in the last week.
Even though there is a human face to these disasters – a woman pulled from the rubble, a family separated by death – it’s easy for me to look at these pictures, hear these stories, and keep myself comfortably behind the mask of distance. These problems are on the exact opposite side of the globe; I can see them and then dismiss them as if they were nothing more than a fictional film.
But my friend is there. She used to be my neighbor, her apartment only 50 feet from my own. It is her neighbors who are suffering, and that makes them my neighbors, too. It is hard to remind ourselves of our common humanity and our responsibility to one another; it is too abstract. However, yesterday morning I didn’t need someone to remind me of my connection to the victims in Indonesia and all those in American Samoa, Sovereign Samoa, and Southeast Asia … because the connection was simply a part of loving my friend.