World Humanitarian Day

We are at a time of change and fear for the human race and all life on our planet. Climate change, globalization and its reversal, losses of biodiversity and the depletion of fossil fuels is making this world a very different place than it was even thirty years ago. We don’t know what our future will look like, and we don’t know if it will be pretty.

If there was ever a time when we all need help, it is now. If there ever was a time when we all need to help, it is now.

Today is International Humanitarian Day. It marks the anniversary of the Canal hotel bombing in Baghdad, and it honors the memories of all those who died trying to bring assistance to others and the efforts of those who are doing that work today. UN Diplomat Sergio de Mello died in the Canal hotel bombing. He bled to death, buried in rubble, and as emergency workers tried – and failed – to rescue him, this is what he said “Don’t let them pull out the mission because of this.”

Human beings, every single one of us, have the capacity to do great things. Just like Sergio de Mello, we can be powerfully unselfish and astonishingly brave. Aid workers aren’t superhuman; they’ll tell you that themselves. They’re just regular people doing important and dangerous work as best they can.

Right now, there is important work for all of us. Dangerous work, even. There’s a lot at risk. If we’re going to survive this global transition and create a future that’s healthy for everyone, we all need to be aid workers. We need to look at the world in a spirit of generosity and courage. We need to find the capacity we all hold to change the world for the better. Most of all, we need to stop simply discussing the problems in this world, and start taking action to solve them.

I wrote this post five years ago, for World Humanitarian Day 2009. It’s even more true now. Since I ended that post with a call to action, it’s only fair to suggest some things we can do:

Four ways to become a humanitarian:

1) Learn CPR, and start thinking of yourself as a first responder. That will make you capable of immediate help to someone in need, and it will lead you to look for other ways you can help other people. In the long run, it will shift your whole point of view.

2) Donate to international aid. I suggest MSF or International Medical Corps. (I worked for IMC once. They’re not perfect, but they’re good people.)

3) Find an advocacy organization you believe in, and join. Oxfam might be a good start.

4) Join the bone marrow registry for your country. 

photo credit: wikimedia commons