I know everyone is most likely pro-Red Cross, but before last May, I wasn't. I mean, I wasn't anti-Red Cross, I was just skeptical. And I know admitting that will only further your suspicions that I'm as insensitive as I always joke of being, but it's worth the risk to convey that I'm now a Red Cross supporter.
Before last May, I was suspicious of what the Red Cross did with their donations. I had seen a pie-chart somewhere that showed that a large portion of donations went to administrative support, and that bothered me for some reason.
After the flood in Nashville last May, the first group to notice what was happening and rush to our assistance (at least, they were the first group I saw) was the Red Cross. I remember driving down Franklin road and seeing their vans and trucks at a church and feeling enormously grateful to have them there. I might have cried a little (sometimes my icy heart melts).
View of downtown Nashville from East Nashville after the rain stopped during the May 2010 flood.
When you can't simply pack up and leave because you LIVE in a place that's just been destroyed by a natural disaster*, the presence of someone from the outside world (so to speak) is a source of comfort and solace. Someone has noticed and is there to help. As resourceful as an individual can be and as prepared as they might be before a disaster, there's a point when a person can't do much more and must rely on assistance.
I know this because even though I had practiced emergency preparedness before the flooding last year, water can wipe out all you've done very quickly. It comes without warning, almost. And if you've put your emergency supplies in the basement, and the basement is the first thing to take on water, unless you can move it quick, the water takes it (this happened to us).
The same goes for tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis, which can dismantle all your careful preparation in a matter of seconds.
The day Stoker and I saw the Red Cross at that church, serving my city, my heart changed. I think I said as much to Stoker and I told him about the pie chart I'd seen depicting where donation money went and he said something like, "Well, an organization that's going to be first to respond like they do is probably going to need to spend a lot on administrative work. So let them spend it like that, if it's going to help them get to the scene quicker. After this, I'll give them money any time they need it."
And it's a good point. He's right, and logistically, an organization that responds as fast as they do (and I've seen it with my own eyes; they're FAST), is going to have some serious overhead to deal with.
It was good to feel like someone had noticed what was happening in Nashville. No one else did, really. I remember that the Tide, Loads of Hope trucks came eventually and helped people wash their clothes (so I think they're great too), which was also invaluable, since water was being rationed because one of the water treatment plants was down. So many people had no clean clothes after the flood. Their houses were wiped out before they could pack up and run (many people had to swim to safety).
In any case, I'll never be stingy when the Red Cross is asking for help. I never paid close attention to natural disasters and relief projects until I had gone through my own. I know Nashville was fairly overlooked last May because there were a bunch of other good stories for the media to focus on (read: stories that could be used to further political agendas), such as the sinister-sounding Deep Water Horizon crisis and the bomb scare in NYC.
I'm not saying those things weren't scary or important. But I tend to think that because the flood in Nashville couldn't be attributed to a specific political party in some way, it was overlooked. No one whined about being a victim. There was no way to turn it into something that could help the liberal or conservative cause. It just happened and it sucked.
The problems in Japan are incredible. It's frustrating and sad and my prayers are with them. The media is going wild over it not only because of the amount of devastation, which is truly horrifying, but also because it will inevitably be angled against nuclear power, not that this has anything to do with the Red Cross. I just had to say it because it's true and it was waiting for me to say it. And I took the bait.
Anyway, I think the Red Cross is great. I know the people of Japan will be thankful for them.
*In case you're skeptical of the amount of damage middle Tennessee endured because of the 2010 May flood because you never heard about it, here's the Wikipedia entry (which has some statistics), video montage, and some news footage.