The past twelve months have been tough on our planet.
There's the "natural disasters" - the Asian tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake, the hurricanes in the US and the Caribbean - all which have been both helped and compounded by our actions and inactions.
Then there are the purely "man-made" disasters - Darfur, Iraq, the Congo, Cote D'Ivoire, Zimbabwe - about which we in the West often speak as if they are forces of nature beyond our influence.
The sheer number of troubles has seemed excessive and extraordinary making it hard to respond. What can we do?
Zalm at From the Salmon (a recent discovery for me) has written about "compassion fatigue", and his unhappiness with himself for often substituting "writing for action" - a feeling I share with him. But writing matters, too, and Zalm has done us a service with this post linking to his writing about the year's disasters and to a number of internet based efforts to help and inform. Take time to follow the links to remind yourself of what's gone on in our world.
So how do we fight off "compassion fatigue"? Lately, I've been wondering if our trouble comes from thinking that the need to take action and keep informed is somehow extraordinary. Temperamentally, most of us can only handle so many emergencies at a time, and so many over time. If we think of disasters as extraordinary emergencies, we will get worn down.
But what would happen if we started thinking of disasters, and our response to them, as a regular part of our lives? Would we feel differently if we budgeted money, time, prayer and political attention, in advance, for whatever troubles the new year may bring? If we did this, I think we'd at least find out if it is the compassion or the sense of crisis that wears us out.
Anyway, something to wonder about.