I was reading a General Conference talk this morning from April 2016 by Elder Patrick Kearon titled “Refuge From The Storm”. He spoke about the refugee crisis that was in the news so much during last summer, drawing from his experience as a counselor in the Europe Area Presidency and helping to manage the Church’s response to refugees in Europe. There was an interesting paragraph that struck me this morning as it reflects thoughts that my wife and I were discussing just a few days ago. He said, “We must be careful that news of the refugees’ plight does not somehow become commonplace when the initial shock wears off and yet the wars continue and the families keep coming. Millions of refugees worldwide, whose stories no longer make the news, are still in desperate need of help.”
My wife and I were talking about just this, how after a few months, weeks, or even days we forget the major crisis and those affected by it because of the next new major crisis. Specifically we were talking about how we felt bad for those in Texas who were affected by Hurricane Harvey because it seems to be overshadowed by those in Florida affected by Hurricane Irma that hit just a few days later. Listening to the news and reading online we see so much focus on Florida and Irma now and very little mention of Houston or Harvey. And all of this, of course, has completely overshadowed the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, and many other natural disasters that have hit worldwide, including an earthquake in Mexico that got only passing mention in US news in between the two hurricanes, hurricane damage and devastation to islands in the Caribbean, wildfires across the western US, and many more that I am not even aware of.
There are even those closer to home, in your community and in your neighborhood who are suffering. Someone has lost a close family member or friend, someone has recently lost their job, someone was just diagnosed with a life threatening illness, someone is battling with depression or anxiety or other problems that may not be so visible. Not everything that needs your attention is reported on the evening news or even on Twitter or Facebook.
There is an LDS Hymn “Have I Done Any Good In The World Today” and the second verse reads:
“There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
’Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.”
Elder Kearon continued in his General Conference address, “If you are asking, “What can I do?” let us first remember that we should not serve at the expense of our families and other responsibilities, nor should we expect our leaders to organize projects for us. But as youth, men, women, and families, we can join in this great humanitarian endeavor.”
“Begin on your knees in prayer. Then think in terms of doing something close to home, in your own community, where you will find people who need help in adapting to their new circumstances. The ultimate aim is their rehabilitation to an industrious and self-reliant life.
The possibilities for us to lend a hand and be a friend are endless. You might help resettled refugees learn their host country language, update their work skills, or practice job interviewing. You could offer to mentor a family or a single mother as they transition to an unfamiliar culture, even with something as simple as accompanying them to the grocery store or the school. Some wards and stakes have existing trusted organizations to partner with. And, according to your circumstances, you can give to the Church’s extraordinary humanitarian effort.
Additionally, each one of us can increase our awareness of the world events that drive these families from their homes. We must take a stand against intolerance and advocate respect and understanding across cultures and traditions.”
There is something you can do today for someone. Even if you cannot help with recovery efforts in Texas or Florida or in so many other places around the world, even if you cannot provide shelter or food to the homeless or to a refugee family, even if you cannot donate much, if at all, due to your personal circumstances, begin with prayer and ask your Father in Heaven to help you find those opportunities where you can help. God loves all of his children, he knows their needs better than government or non-profit or religious organizations. He will help inspire you to honest acts of charity to bless the lives of his children, if you ask for his guidance.
There is a website, JustServe.org that is designed to help you find service opportunities in your local community, with some projects that you can do individually and others that you can organize a group of friends or neighbors to serve. The Church’s website IWasAStranger.lds.org is still active with information and links to projects and ideas for helping with refugees. Maybe all it takes is just opening your eyes and your heart, looking around for something that you notice that needs to be done and just doing it. See what you can find in your neighborhood that needs done, see what help your neighbors need and do it, see what act of kindness or charity you can provide for someone at work or during your commute or while running your errands and just do it.
Elder Kearon closed his talk with these amazing words, “Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them. Like countless thousands before them, this will be a period—we hope a short period—in their lives. Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything. This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.”
How are you being defined by your reaction to what you see? Of all God’s creations His children are his greatest glory and I believe he will judge us based on how we have interacted with each of his children we have come into contact with. Have we done any good in the world today? Have we helped anyone in need? If not we have failed indeed.
Do not forget all of those who need some small amount of love and help even after the news cameras move on and the attention of the world has centered on something else. God will notice what you do for even one of his children, for the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.