appalling paradox

Yesterday I was at the gym walking on a treadmill gazing absent-mindedly ahead of me at a wall of nearly a dozen television screens. I wasn’t paying particular attention to any one of them when my eyes focused on a screen where a music video was being shown. I tried to keep my jaw from dropping in disbelief as the young woman on the wall seductively handled her own body as she lithely walked along a path leading to who knows where. Reactively I redirected my eyes to a news broadcast. It took only a second for my brain to register what my eyes were absorbing: piles and piles of brown bodies, broken down buildings, people weeping, and others looting. Shock. Mayhem.

What a contrast. It was unbelievable, appalling.

I was in a giant room with a good number of people all working and sweating on treadmills, elliptical machines, stair-steppers; jogging, walking, sliding, stepping; all seemingly oblivious to the absurd reality playing out right in front of them.

How can we do it? How can we watch the destruction of a nation and glance away to check out the steamy seductress and not even notice the incongruity of it?

We were in a clean workout facility, getting or keeping our bodies in shape. We’d return home to our families and eat a nice meal together and maybe watch a show, work on a hobby or read before crawling into our clean, warm, comfortable beds to recharge for another beautiful day in America.

The Haitians were working hard to dig out their loved ones, fearful they were already dead. They had no homes to return to and no food or clean water. They had so little to begin with and now they had nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking America. I love our nation. I’m grateful to have been born here and to enjoy the privileges we are blessed with. Unfortunately it seems our affluence has numbed us to the harsh realities so many people endure.

I’m guilty too often myself. It’s easy to gaze at the television and not comprehend. When we haven’t experienced that kind of suffering it’s all too easy to stay detached and unconcerned. To treat what we’re seeing as just another television show.

It’s not wrong to work out and get healthy. It’s not wrong to enjoy the benefits of working hard and earning money. What is wrong is not sharing with others less fortunate. What is wrong is having an empty, calloused heart. What is terribly wrong is having an unconcerned attitude toward the suffering of others. “That’s their problem.”

God, please have mercy on us! Please intervene for the people of Haiti. Show us how we can help. Spur us to pray. Amen.

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