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Times are changing - urgency isn't

Illustration by Patricia Tompkins
By Lori Foley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 6, 2005
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My parents have this philosophy of making me learn things for myself, which probably occasionally works. In second grade, they gave me some money for the month, an organizer to keep it in and a mandate to make a budget. Being "let her learn it herself" types, they gave me extra money, waiting to see how I'd use it to help others.

Here's what I did with my surplus: I bought Tootsie Rolls. I'm still absolutely mystified by this purchase. I definitely don't like Tootsie Rolls now, and I can't imagine that I did at the time. But somehow, when I saw that big, bulk 2-pound bag, I just knew I had to have it.

I think I ended up consuming a good pound of the candy, and to this day, I can't look at a Tootsie Roll without a mild sensation of disgust. But what I really hate about them is not the taste (which is, frankly, vile), but the fact that they remind me of just how myopic I am.

We've all been there - had the opportunity to do something to help someone else, but chosen the Tootsie Rolls or whatever their analogue is. It's part of being human.

We've all also made positive decisions with our money and our time and seen the results. Hurricane Katrina confronted us with images of the dead and the dying, the displaced and the dispossessed. In response, the UA campus gave its time and dug deep into its pockets to help the disaster victims.

It's not only the government that has emergency response protocols. We all do, and we saw them in action after Katrina. For most of us, the response comprised a search for information and then action. We were glued to the news, just trying to ascertain what was going on in our nation. And then we moved. We donated money; we gave time.

Mike Wilbur, a psychology junior, responded to the crisis by selling wristbands for Hurricane Katrina relief on behalf of his fraternity, Sigma Pi Epsilon, raising more than $1,000 for the American Red Cross so far. He explained what he was doing simply: "I felt a sense of urgency - that's why I'm doing this."

Lori Foley

Here's the thing: That urgency is constant.

People are dying and not only in our corner of the world.

Hurricane Katrina showed us what it was like to see life-or-death crises in our own nation, to sense the extreme violation of massive and needless death within our own borders. But it comes down to this: We are not unique in sensing that feeling.

Every day, all over the world, people struggle to live. We can help other people fight similar battles to the one we're fighting in the Gulf Coast by caring with the same sense of exigency about human tragedies that occur outside of our own borders.

Look at Niger. People are dying there - today. Niger Direct, a new UA-based aid group, has been formed in response to the urgency of this situation.

The goal of Niger Direct is to help get food to villages in the southern part of the country, where the inhabitants may starve if they don't receive aid before harvest at the end of the month. Drought and locust invasions have destroyed this year's crop and resulted in the deaths of farm animals - causing a food shortage that has pushed more than 3.6 million people, among them 800,000 children, to the brink of starvation.

"Time is really of the essence here," said anthropology graduate student Micah Boyer, "and we have a real and probably unique opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives."

The outpouring of compassion and concern we have for in-your-face disasters like Katrina can be a way of life. A constant search for information is the only way to be aware of situations that deserve our attention, from our own Gulf Coast crises to the disaster in Niger to the real, awful struggles fought daily around the globe. And action, however you define it, is the only humane response to these issues.

So please, don't let the help you gave Katrina victims check off the "do something constructive for others" box on your annual to-do list. Let it be a year-round reminder: People are hurting.

But there's always something we can do to help. Figure out what it is for you. It's urgent.

Lori Foley is a senior majoring in French and English. She can be reached at

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