I've never been to Iran. But Iranians have poured into my living room by the hundreds in all their pain and grief, in all their humanity and enormous courage.
They have poured into millions of homes around the globe via the Internet and CNN. They have shown almost unimaginable grit as, with no tools but their bare hands, they have dug for friends and family members buried by the recent earthquake. Here and there, at least during the first 24 hours after the quake, a heartening story unfolded as a kind of minor counterpoint to the major heartbreak. A few survivors were found beneath tons of rubble.
The scene from Bam, Iran, the center of disaster, triggered an avalanche of humanitarian aid from around the globe. Even from the US. I'm no expert in the intricacies of international politics. I'm simply grateful that, whatever bitterness lingers between the US and Iran, it has been set aside so that relief workers, including those from the US, are free to focus on what's really important: getting as much help to as many people as fast as possible.
A number of aid agencies accept cash donations to forward the relief effort. For starters, here are two: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can be reached at www.ifrc.org, or by phone at 1-800-HELPNOW. UNICEF can be reached at www.supportunicef.org, or by phone at 1-800-367-5437.
Could prayer possibly heighten the effectiveness of the aid - perhaps in some way underpinning efforts to better match the emergency supplies to where they're most needed? And once that match has been made, to swiftly move the food and blankets, the first-aid supplies and the tents to points of distribution? Yes, prayer could, prayer does. Prayer, whether offered by a Christian or a Muslim, draws on the one divine being who is also the source of all inspiration. And that divinely derived inspiration impels people - including people on the front lines of relief work whether they pray or not - to make wise decisions, productive and healing moves.
The Scriptures tell of a time of crisis, of urgent need by the victims, and of willing citizens who became on-the-spot relief workers. Divinely bestowed inspiration seems to have been key both during the moments of catastrophe, and during the aftermath. The crisis was not an earthquake but a shipwreck. The character best known to today's Bible readers was St. Paul. And the spiritual inspiration he found through prayer seems to have shaped responses for the better.
Through prayer Paul had the insight that the journey should be abandoned. As a prisoner he wasn't in a position to act on it. So, he continued in prayer and got the inspired insight, in the form of an angel message, that while the ship and all its provisions would be lost, everyone's life could be saved.
When the shipwreck occurred, locals swung into action at once, serving, evidently, as exceedingly compassionate and able relief workers. The New Testament book of Acts offers this snapshot: "After our escape [from the shipwreck] we discovered that the island was called Melita. The natives treated us with exceptional kindness. Because of the driving rain and cold they lit a fire and made us all welcome" (Acts 28:1, 2, J.B. Phillips).
There is a native goodness in all of God's children, regardless of religion. That native goodness, placed there by the God who is divine Love, was clearly at work in the citizens of Melita. It also is plainly at work today. And that goodness tends to come into the most effective focus when underpinned by inspired prayer. The inspiration itself, in fact, flows from divine Love.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 454).
That inspiration from divine Love is already on the scene, is already the most powerful factor of all, is already impelling individuals to make the best decisions possible.
I believe the time will come when seeing divine Love's complete control will mean the prevention of catastrophic events. Until that time, even a glimpse of Love's inspiration steers us toward the best responses we can make under the circumstances.