The Day After Malaria Awareness Day

Malaria Awareness Day was a success. The
important question, however, is what do we do the day after? The challenge
remains.

It’s the day after Malaria Awareness Day, and by any measurement, yesterday was a success.

There is a reservoir of goodwill, never fully focused, that harbors a deep yearning to make a difference in the world. The response to American Idol is but one small measure of this yearning, and it is not to be minimized merely because it is media driven.

I believe beneath even this, there is something deeper. It is a yearning for connecting with people whom we don’t know, yet understand that we share our time with on this earth, and that something is seriously wrong about how the resources we are given are distributed.

I was deeply moved that staff colleagues at United Methodist agencies in Nashville attended a soup and crackers lunch at the United Methodist Publishing House and contributed $3,500 for bednets to prevent children half a world away from contracting malaria. We are only a few hundred people, but a significant number came and made contributions.

I heard a report from Bishop Thomas Bickerton who was in Miami speaking on behalf of Nothing But Nets, that events there, starting with a breakfast meeting of local leaders, to a “boot camp” training event for young adults in the afternoon, were well-attended and very encouraging.

The viewers of American Idol were treated to two hours of song and inspiring storytelling about people living in extreme poverty, children who head households, parents in the U.S. who struggle to ensure their children get the education that they were denied, and mothers in Africa who want only to protect their children from dreaded diseases. And those same viewers anted up more than thirty million dollars for the various charitable organizations that are attacking these problems.

There is this deep yearning to make a difference. And that is yet another challenge the day after. How do we give this yearning concrete form and expression to bring deeper change? Yesterday was a great day, but it was only a start. The problems, of course, remain. They are being addressed, but there is so much more to do. One remarkable day filled with learning events calls attention to them, but it will take a generation, perhaps a lifetime, to turn around suffering from the preventable diseases of poverty, education for all children, health care for everyone, and the myriad other challenges we face in the U.S. and globally.

And yet, days like this feed my optimism. I know the emotions fade quickly enough. But I am moved by this yearning, not yet fulfilled. To make a difference. And this, as much as the problems so manifest in the stories told last night, we must remember. For, if we channel this yearning, we will someday celebrate different stories, of lives changed, children saved, mothers rejoicing in the accomplishments of their young ones.

Won’t that be a great day?

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