If your rice didn’t spill this week, be thankful

Published 11:19 pm Saturday, May 2, 2015

By American standards, people in Nepal have practically nothing in the best of times.

Chris Jackson and his son Jake recently visited the country on a father-son trip. Earlier this week, they sat down for an interview about their trip. Each said the most poignant part was spending the day with a family.

This particular family lived on a rural mountainside. They gardened, and sell some of their produce at a nearby market. They have one electrical line, which powers one light bulb and charges their cell phone. Their annual income is less than $200.

Yet, Chris and Jake agreed, they are – or at least were – a very happy family. Their children were going to school and learning English. And, they had the Nepalese equivalent of an American savings account: a huge quantity of rice, stored in what looked to be a large barrel.

As of Friday night, authorities there estimated that 6,621 people died in or as a result of the 7.2 earthquake that struck last weekend. An additional 14,040 were wounded. It is feared that many more were injured, but cannot navigate blocked roads to get help they need.

The thing that struck him the most, Chris said, is that with a government in turmoil, there is no safety net for people. People who are injured and can’t work are lucky if they happen upon a non-government organization or aid group that can help. Otherwise, they are at the mercy of friends and family.

Imagine the family in the rural village with their life savings in a rice barrel. If they were lucky enough to survive, it is likely the earthquake spilled the contents of that rice barrel. The earthquake was followed by days of rain, further worsening conditions.

All of us on the Gulf Coast have lived through hurricanes and/or tornados that were terrifying, and which left us in awe of nature’s power, and with a deeper appreciation of life’s simple things. But none of us can fathom the challenges of burying 600 people – much less 6,600 – in the aftermath of a storm.

Remember the reactions of Americans 10 years ago in the wake of Katrina? Remember the looting in New Orleans, and the demands for government help?

In badly damaged Katmandu, those demands would fall on deaf ears. The government was in disarray before the quake; initial reports this week have been that the country can’t get the aid it receives out of Katmandu and into other areas of the country.

Perhaps you, like me, are frustrated with politicians who banter over semantics; pander to constituents by passing meaningless bills; or take other positions with which we disagree.

Perhaps your week didn’t go as planned, or there is some thing you think you need. There are things with which I am not satisfied, either.

But an earthquake did not spill your rice – your life savings – nor mine, on the ground.

Blessed, my friends. We are blessed, indeed.