Local Commentary

Editorial: Generosity in the Face of Crisis

When you read the report in this week’s edition of the eyewitness account of the earthquake in Haiti last month, it is hard to justify complaints about whatever inconveniences have been created by the double-whammy snowstorms that have ravaged our area in the last week.

There are still many without power and an ability to get out of their driveways in our area, and as bad as that may be, it is nothing compared to the Haiti catastrophe, as described by Susan Merten, the wife of the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, at a dinner meeting of the Falls Church Rotary Club last week.

There was a surreal atmosphere at the dinner meeting, which by all outward appearances looked like any other local service club event, as Ms. Merten made her low-key but articulate presentation. As the images of the horrors of the quake, itself, and immediate aftermath, much persisting to this day, began to pour out from Ms. Merten, the impact on listeners became like a mighty collective wallop to the solar plexus. The experience had a powerful, persisting impact on our reporter, even as Ms. Merten also focused her presentation on the energetic and generous relief efforts from the U.S., including its individual citizens from those suffering their own issues of unemployment to school-aged children and teens.

It recalled to us the saying from many years past, “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

Still, the record snowfall in this wider region has caused genuine difficulties, and reveals among many in the population the best of qualities, and among some others, not so much. There remain too many, especially in a well-to-do region like ours, that would do better spending their time making on-line contributions to the Haiti relief effort than whining and barking complaints at City Hall.

A noble public servant and reliable News-Press columnist for over a decade, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, did not allow the persisting loss of power and snowbound conditions at her Sleepy Hollow home to keep her from getting her weekly column to the News-Press by deadline Tuesday. She wrote it out by hand and was able to send it by fax.

Public works and public safety personnel throughout the region have not complained as they’ve camped out on cots in public buildings to remain accessible to where the work of clearing snow and assisting disabled vehicles has been the most demanding. For as much as hasn’t yet been done to restore the region to near-normal in the wake of these record-setting storms, there’s just as much that has been done to keep the essential functions of our civil society in operation.

We agree with Ms. Merten that the vast majority Americans have an almost natural impulse toward big-hearted generosity and an instinct to help others in time of need without complaint or ideological preconditions. It’s what keeps so many of us plugging along at what we do.