Jim Denison on the Localization of Compassion

House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously observed that “all politics is local.” He was right about more than politics.

Wednesday, as the national media continued reporting on Hurricane Dorian, the lead story in the local Dallas news was the signing of Ezekiel Elliott by the Cowboys. That same day, the lead headline in the Los Angeles Times focused on the dive boat tragedy off the Southern California coast. Today’s Midland Reporter-Telegram continues to report on the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting in their community.

I suspect citizens in Great Britain are following the latest on Brexit more closely than most of us in America. The pope’s travels in Africa are being reported more thoroughly there than here. Wildfires in Bolivia are receiving little attention in the US.

Dorian has been in the news for more than a week now. Unfortunately, many of us are suffering from compassion fatigue after watching the hurricane march slowly across the ocean.

But if you live in North Carolina or have family there, the storm is an existential threat to you. Dorian is brushing their coast this morning, lashing the area with rain, strong winds, and storm surges. The hurricane is causing floods in parts of the Carolinas and has left more than 343,000 people without power in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

If my loved ones were among the thousands still missing in the Bahamas, Dorian’s destruction would be agonizing for me. More than 1,500 Americans are still “unaccounted for” in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. For their families, the war continues.


News organizations know the importance of reporting what we want to read and hear. They focus on local stories because local stories impact their readers most directly.

This localization of compassion is understandable. Finite human souls cannot carry the grief and suffering of the entire world for even a moment, much less a lifetime.

However, our innate focus on ourselves carries two risks.

One: By concentrating on what’s happening to us today, we can miss what will happen to us tomorrow.

There were no hurricanes battering the southeastern US when Dorian was devastating the Bahamas. But knowing what the storm had done prepared the residents of Florida and the Carolinas for what the storm could do.

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Source: Christian Headlines