It is now the second day of September, 2005… and I am charged with a humbling duty. Staring through my study window at a dark sky, I’m reflecting on the message to be shared beyond the announcement. This month’s issue of Reefkeeping Magazine will be cancelled. It is another somber September for America. Listening to painful news reports about the devastation and criminal acts of desperation in the wake of hurricane Katrina is a test of my endurance. Thankfully, our dear friend, principal editor and RC/RK yeoman, Skip Attix, survived the destructive path with his family. Presently, Skipper has some important and pressing matters to attend to and will do so with our best hopes, prayers and full support. Beyond this temporary delay in publishing Reefkeeping, I suggest that we, the hobbyists at large, contemplate our mettle and what we can do to help others.
It has been said that the first person you meet abroad is… yourself: a rather poignant thought that rings true to many folks. But you need not travel abroad, or even leave your home, to find such inspiration. As reef aquarium keepers, our personal slice of the ocean is a ticket to virtual travel. Through the walls of an aquarium, we are transported to special places that we dream about and envision. The process enlightens us to the wonders of science in an array of disciplines: physics, chemistry and biology, of course. But moreover, our creations insist upon being shared! Thus, through local and online communities, family and friends, we celebrate the living treasures of the sea.
To me, the nature of reef aquarists, and petkeepers in general, is decidedly empathetic. We have great admiration and capacity for love in the living world. For most of us, this character extends throughout our relationships in life. We want to cultivate and grow, nurture and heal, the things that we touch and take into our folds. In making my point here, I wish to share a short, personal excerpt from my unpublished, and until now, private, travelogue:
“I grew up at first in wonder of why my mother volunteered so much of her life and what little money she had to spare (or not) for other people while she was struggling so terribly as a single parent. As I got older, I better understood and appreciated it. As an adult, it inspires me profoundly. And so, it was a destined epiphany that I should be thunderstruck the first time my eyes lay upon the noble words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “The most important question of the day is, ‘What are you doing to help other people?’
These words define so much of what I expect of myself and hope to see in other people. You must see that serving others is the very essence of any commonwealth… going far beyond the microcosm of ‘cause and effect’ for any single, good deed. It speaks of one’s character and necessarily pays forward upon the needs of a community. In our commonwealths, the benefits that we enjoy, such as protection by the military and law enforcement, fast responses by emergency medical personnel, the keeping of our roads and the assurance of safe food and water, are not created by a force of numb, one-dimensional laborers. No. These are inspired folks sharing priceless time for less tangible reasons than mere “play for pay” contracts.”
Nowadays, when I look around, talk to fellow aquarists, and engage the same folks in travel… I see the same sentiment in most all of them that I feel in me. We want to help people, creatures and things in creation.
For most of us living in America, we live extraordinary lives. Blessed with bounty, it’s easy to stray and continually define ‘poverty’ upwards in America. Yet, I somberly believe that most people on this planet would trade their best day where they live, for your worst day here in the United States of America. Very few of us, fortunately, have even the slightest concept of what living in abject poverty is like. Well-traveled people know this to be true. Every day we wake up, there are thousands of famished children overseas who have learned to eat small pebbles to quell hunger pains. Isn’t that starkly sobering? There are places on this earth where a man’s life is arguably worth less than his weight in rice. The painful reality extends far beyond Africa, China and other deservedly highly publicized locales, too. In fact, parts of regions that many of us think of as “paradise,” including the South Pacific or Indo-Pacific island nations, are categorically impoverished by even the lowest standards of urban America. We are literally talking about subsistence living. Really… there are places that would make you sob if not drop to your knees stunned and humbled at every turn of a corner.
It is not lost on me that we cannot support or save everyone, everywhere. Hardly so. But every one of us individually can make an effort to ease suffering and provide relief somewhere. We can pull our share of the load of humanity in many ways. The easiest way, to begin with, is to live more gently on the planet. Be mindful of consumption of food, clean water, and fuel. With little effort we can discover nearly effortless tips that make a difference. And there are, of course, professional agencies dedicated, time-tested and skilled at allocating emergency funds, and providing tactical support and physical relief to those in need. If we really want to make the most of our efforts, in many cases it will be done best with a financial contribution.
I, for one, have no intention of reinventing the wheel. I cannot train myself to be a medic or an engineer soon enough to give assistance to the poor folks left in the ruins of hurricane Katrina. I would likely never become a competent medic or engineer either, even with unlimited time to do so. It is not my calling. Instead, I am… in part, a communicator. And I hope to communicate to you the imperative for us as reef-keeping friends to help others in the global community to recover more quickly from states of emergency. If you too are like me and cannot provide physical support at this time, please consider donating to the organizations of people who can.
On behalf of Reef Central and the Reefkeeping Community, I send our best hopes and deepest sympathies to the victims of hurricane Katrina and all souls in peril. And I ask that we all consider how very blessed we are to live free. With this in mind, the insignificance of the conflicts of daily life should be more apparent with the knowledge and comfort that we all belong to the commonwealth of humanity.
With kindest regards…