The recent fires in Southern California, along with their 24 hour coverage on the internet, TV, and radio elicited in me a surprising reaction recently: frustration. Let me explain: I wasn’t frustrated by people’s suffering; I was frustrated because there seemed to be so little I could do about it. Of course, I can pray; I know that (I’m a pastor, after all!). I can also give. But that launches me into a spiral of discernment: do I give to each and every cause I see and hear?! How much do I give, if I give? Aargh!
As I mulled this over, I wondered about the effects of being exposed to so much suffering so much of the time. We are finite people who live in much smaller communities than the virtual world. For the most part, I think we’re wired for a very localized response—to reach out and aid those in our immediate network, those circles of influence and relationships which are part of our daily existence. I’m not sure we have the capacity to carry the world’s pain, to respond consistently and compassionately to the seemingly endless onslaught of wars, natural disasters, crime, etc, to which we’re exposed relentlessly. Sometimes it seems like the only way we can cope is to harden ourselves and quickly click past the images and headlines that greet us every time we launch our browsers and land on our home pages. Ugh.
The question for us as Christ-followers is how do we keep our hearts soft and pliable in a virtual world of information overload? How do we not allow TMI to harden us? Is it a matter of "Think Globally, Act Locally"? What are some possibilities for the disciple seeking to live faithfully in the information age? Tell me what you think!