Friday, September 22, 2017

A different Irma and Harvey

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The destruction caused by the two hurricanes is beyond words, beyond imagination. Reports suggest that it might take months for electricity to be restored. Reconstruction may take several years. Who can estimate the costs? How do you determine the “cost” of a rain forest destroyed? Of millions of people whose lives will probably never be the same again?

When the super-typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, I was in China. I remember the same people covering Harvey and Irma traveling to the Philippines to provide an “on the spot” account. A natural catastrophe of unprecedented proportions was “milked” for what it was worth 24 x 7 – never mind the trauma of those directly affected, with no water and no food for weeks.

The Oracle of Omaha, speaking earlier this week, proclaimed that anyone who was pessimistic about America was “out of his mind.” Maybe. Maybe not.

Professor Stephen Hawking warns that the way we are growing and recklessly using up scarce resources, we may not survive as a species for very long.

Depending on whether you believe in Oracles or Science, you can place your bets.

Wait. This is not really about the hurricanes.

I want to write about Irma and Harvey Schulter of Spokane, WA.

Irma Schulter is 92. Harvey Schulter is 103.

They have been married for 75 years (they were married in 1942).

The extraordinary thing about this couple is that they have fostered over 120 children, many of whom have been physically or mentally differently abled.

Asked what their motivation was to foster so many children, they say: “ We don’t know. We just did. They were interesting little people.”

Think about it for a minute.

What if each one of us could develop a fraction of the humility, compassion, kindness, and generosity that the wonderful Schulters exemplify?

What if each one of us could develop the sensitivity to think a little less about ourselves and a little more about others – particularly those who are vulnerable, or those who have been ravaged by a natural or human-made catastrophe?

Let me give you a small example.

150 million people die every year from Malaria – most of them in the poorest countries.

What does it take to prevent this relentless scourge?

$5 per person.

That’s right. $5 is the cost of a mosquito-net that has a useful life of at least five years.

The arithmetic is simple.

You need $750 million to prevent those deaths from Malaria.

Just as a matter of fact, $750 million is less than a day’s budget of the U.S. Department of Defense.

I am not suggesting that the U.S. alone should bear this cost.

Imagine that all the 200+ countries of the world agree to give up a day’s spending on defense.

What could that do to improve humanity as a species?

Is it too much to ask?

If Irma and Harvey Schulter, with a modest background, could foster 120 children, can we not make a little change in our mindsets?

As a footnote, the World Meteorological Organization started naming hurricanes alternately with female and male names in the 1970s. Irma and Harvey are due to be retired after the recent havoc they caused.

I wish Irma and Harvey Schulter many more years of peace and happiness.

Their life, simple as it may sound, can inspire many others.
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