This day, scenes of suffering will float across our computer screens: perhaps atrocities in Syria, or a kidnapping in Nigeria, or a terrorist attack somewhere in the world, or an earthquake in southeast Asia, or the homeless caught in freezing weather in one of our cities. We are bombarded with scenes of suffering, both in our home towns and in other hometowns all over the globe.
The Morse Code, leading to telegraphic communication, was invented in 1839. In the early 1860’s, Matthew Brady was able to take photographs of people and places in America’s Civil War.
The concerns of the average American until the first decades of the twentieth century were mostly local, those of his or her community or, for some, a missionary speaker in a local church.
Today, we are bombarded with multiple needs. How do we cope when human suffering meets us every hour?
Some of us become callused. The suffering bounces off with no more effect than a baseball score in the minor leagues. Others of us live in guilt, overwhelmed.
A better way is to choose a few areas of need and concentrate on them. We give either time or money or both to a few causes that we have investigated and that speak to us. We do not give to every need that lodges in our email or feel guilty when we can’t. Instead, we practice disciplined giving as a part of our lives.
In the same way, we set aside certain times of the day for news. We don’t click on news stories every time a teaser headline rolls across our screen as we leave our email or finish a check of the weather.
We’re finite individuals. Best to channel our sympathy and not become either frozen or unmoved.