These days, as always, horrific natural and human made catastrophes are occurring, as close as California and as far as Myanmar. More than half a million Rohingya Muslim refugees, starving and exhausted, have been flooding into Bangladesh following waves of killings and abuse by Myanmar’s military. Closer to home, unprecedented northern California fires, that started more than a week ago, so far have killed more than 40 people (with 200 still missing), destroyed 5,700 properties, and forced 75,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Such disasters and atrocities also include recent merciless hurricanes in the U.S., terrorist mass killings in several countries, and a host of other unimaginably destructive natural disasters and taking of human lives by military/government and terrorist groups. What can we do as individuals who are busy with our own lives, but wanting to relieve and prevent human suffering and environmental destruction?

It is very challenging to face, respond to and act upon the overwhelming feelings of horror, sadness and empathy that such tragedies cause in us. Case in point: The devastating, record-breaking fires north of us in the wine country continue to dominate the news and to cause anxiety, sadness and feelings of helplessness for those of us who have not sustained any destructive loss.

However, we have been communicating with friends some of whose family and friends have lost their homes or been forced to evacuate without knowing whether they have a home to return to. Our friends have expressed deep appreciation for our concern and support.

What else can we do? We participated in a fund-raising dinner the proceeds of which were donated to a few of the nonprofits providing essential services to fire victims. What else can we do? Review and share information about disaster preparedness with friends in our area; and update our disaster prep kits and supplies in case a major earthquake or fire hits our home.

Each of us needs to explore what we can do to impact nature-caused disasters and human-caused injustices and atrocities. Offer your love, support and assistance to someone you know who suffered losses from fires in northern California. Make a contribution to an organization like Direct Relief (www.directrelief.org), the Environmental Defense Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Support a promising, fledgling organization like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Explore needs and opportunities for volunteerism abroad.

A friend, whose home was threatened by the fire, wrote to people who had shared their concern and support: “Our meditation teacher, in her New Year’s Day talk this year, enjoined us to ‘breathe out gently the benevolent power of the heart’ in 2017. That is exactly what you are doing with your thoughts and wishes for us up here, and the results are miraculous. Speaking for everyone here, we are full of gratitude for your help.”

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