If you have felt, as I have, overwhelmed by the news coming out of Haiti over the last two days, you are in good company.
It has been pointed out by those who study congregational life (and I found support for this in both anthropology and sociology) that the mind of human beings can keep track of the interrelationships between a group of 150 people, but no more than that. It can have more than one set of 150 people that it tracks, but 150 is the maximum in any one group. Once a group reaches or passes the 150 mark, it needs to become a multi-celled organism if it is to continue to grow; and that means new structures and procedures.
That is why so many congregations “stall” at a membership plateau of about 150. There is nostalgia for “the way things used to be”, a desire to know and be known by everyone in the group; a nostalgia for the old group processes even if they are no longer functional.
This points to the fact that our minds have great difficulties relating to a group; we prefer relating to individuals. We (most of us) can somehow relate better to Joan and John than to a vaguer concept like “the congregation” or “humanity”.
So in a disaster such as has struck in Haiti, it becomes literally mind numbing to try to grasp what tens of thousands, or possibly even one hundred thousand, deaths really means. Most of us are literally incapable of conceptualizing the magnitude of that kind of loss.
That is why news coverage switches between pictures of massive destruction and stories of individuals; individuals we can relate to.
I want to strive to grow my mind, to force myself to recognize that this is a story of individuals, but a story that is magnified thousands of times over. I want to strive to see the pain and suffering of so many, so that I will be moved to action.
May our hearts be touched, may our hands be moved, to serve the needs of all.