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Archive for the ‘Nashville charities’ Category

With his red cape rustling in the hot Gulf air, Superman flies low over the collapsed levees. His mighty arms carry a 300-foot-wide, 30-foot tall steel wall, which he carefully slides down into the gaping hole in the levee, turning back the waters.

He welds it shut with his heat vision and proceeds to repair the other retaining walls. Then with one giant inhalation into his super chest, he takes in the floodwaters and spews them back into the Gulf, leaving the city to dry out.

Superman always responds to disasters with courage and determination, for he cares for the people of Earth, his foster home, whose yellow sun gives him his super powers.

Suddenly the phone rings and my short daydream from reality is over.

Images of submerged cars, flooded homes and helpless refugees stream across the television screen. Press conferences and body counts continue. Unfortunately, there is no Superman who can save the day for the thousands left dead or homeless in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

There’s also no movie script that can match the devastation and personal tragedies we’ve seen in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Even our wonderment of computer-generated landscapes in fantasy films cannot measure up to the horror we feel when viewing real images of this natural disaster’s aftermath.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t tried.

Some of the biggest blockbuster films use natural disasters as a plot device, such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974), Twister (1996) and Volcano (1997).

But the scenes from New Orleans, Biloxi and Mobile are so much more terrible than what we, or Hollywood, could ever imagine. The pain and suffering of the citizens in this area are real; making the disaster films just a weak imitation of this real-life disaster.

However, there are examples of cinematic courage and helping others that can inspire as we each decide how best to help the victims of Katrina.

In The Poseidon Adventure, Gene Hackman portrays Reverend Frank Scott who leads a group of survivors in the capsized ship. After scaling the ballroom’s 30-foot Christmas tree to the balcony, the survivors climb up to the bottom of the ship where the hull is thinnest. When an open steam pipe blocks their way, Reverend Scott jumps to the handle and turns it off, saving the group, while sacrificing his own life.

VolcanoIn Volcano, Tommy Lee Jones plays Mike Roark, the “hard-boiled head of the Office of Emergency Management” in Los Angeles. To minimize the damage from a volcano that has sprouted from the La Brea Tar Pits, Roark and geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Ann Hecht) convince city workers to first blow up the street in order to create a trench to the ocean. Then they rig explosives to tip over a building and guide the lava to the trench. But as the explosives ignite, Roark has to run and save a young boy who has wandered into the area.

Entertaining? Yes. Inspiring? Well, the real life images on television are more inspiring. These are true heroic efforts, without special effects or choreographed turns to the camera.

KatrinaWe watched Coast Guardsmen connected to a tether, lowered down to rooftops to hoist flood victims to safety. Then we saw National Guardsmen working 18 hours a day under the threat of bullets to hand out water, food and clothing. We also read about heroic efforts to evacuate hundreds of patients and thousands of employees from New Orleans area hospitals.

But there is always room for more heroes. You can be a part of the relief efforts and experience your own “heroic moment.” Perhaps you can…

• Donate blood or contribute money to the Red Cross.
• Fill up special trucks collecting food and clothing for the victims.
• Contribute money to the Catholic Charities USA’s efforts at special collections this weekend.
• Contact Catholic Charities if you have room to house evacuees from the region.
• Pray for the victims, the workers and the entire country during this emergency.

Though none of us can fly like Superman and completely save the day, we can each do our part to help our brothers and sisters in need. That’s a scene all of us should reenact in the movie of our lives.

CF

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First published in the September 9, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.

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“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.” – Matthew 25:40
Movies about superheroes are popular again. Spider-man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and Catwoman all used special powers in their fight against bad guys, while at the same time attracting millions of ticket buyers, more or less, to the theaters.

But with the summer blockbuster Batman Begins, we get a hero with no super powers or mutations who must rely on his own courage and well developed skills to rid his city of the evil and corrupt.

This is a hero we can relate to, more or less.

Granted, Bruce Wayne had billions of dollars and a multi-national corporation’s research and development department at his disposal. Yet with all his gizmos, gadgets and a gargantuan batmobile, underneath his black mask he is the most human of all superheroes.

At an early age, Bruce’s parents instilled in him the values that would form the foundation of justice and fairness in his crime fighting days. His parents loved Gotham City and worked hard to provide for its citizens, whether sponsoring a fundraiser for the poor or funding a new water system to improve everyone’s quality of life.

Tragically, Bruce’s life comes crashing down when his parents are gunned down in a dark alley holdup. Shaken and riddled with the guilt of causing the killings, Bruce drifts through school into adulthood and comes close to ruining his life at the trial of his parents’ murderer.

BatmanThere he meets up again with Rachel Dawes, his childhood friend, now an assistant district attorney who has done something with her life.

“Bruce,” she says to her listless friend, “you are a great guy. But it’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”

This becomes the pivotal moment in his life as he chooses to fight instead of sitting comfortably at home. He leaves Gotham City and devotes his life to understanding the criminal element of the world. Living in poverty among hardened criminals, he learns their ways and later fights for his life in a Far East prison. He learns about the desperate, the deranged and the corrupt, and vows to develop the skills and weapons to defeat all of them.

But the journey is a difficult one, physically and mentally. Christian Bale, the actor who plays Bruce Wayne / Batman, says the man behind the mask faces daily contradictions. “He is in a constant battle with himself internally,” writes Bale in the film’s production notes. “He must continually assess his actions and control his demons, overcoming the pull toward self-destruction and the negative emotions that will destroy his life if he allows them to.”

This is the same struggle, to a lesser degree, that we Christians face in this world. Do we stay within our own comfort zone, never looking at the needy except through a television screen? Are we truly compassionate to others, or do we say “I’m so glad my life is not as bad as hers,” like just another reality TV show?

Unlike the fictional Bruce Wayne’s life, our lives almost never mean a battle between good and evil in a life or death situation. It’s usually about deciding whether to do what’s right or do nothing at all.

Despite his sorrow and guilt, Bruce Wayne used his mind, his body and all he had to help make his city a better place in which to live. It was his wholehearted response to a bad situation that made him a superhero. Can we make the same response?

In Nashville, there are dozens of charitable organizations that need our time, talent and treasure in order to provide needed services to those less fortunate.

The Assumption / St. Vincent Outreach program needs helping hands to sort donated clothing, oversee its distribution, stock the food pantry and more. Contact DeeDee Searcy at (615) 242-1554 to volunteer.

The Nutrition Program for Metro Nashville Social Services needs volunteers to deliver meals to the hungry. A route usually has eight stops within Davidson County and takes no more than one and one-half hours to complete. If you are interested, call Darla Bennings at (615) 880-2292.

More than 150 Nashville churches produce the Room at the Inn program between November and March. The program provides transportation to the church, a hot meal, fellowship and a warm bed to sleep. In the morning, breakfast, a sack lunch and transportation back to the downtown campus are provided. Contact your church office to help or find a program near you.

There are many other volunteer opportunities in our community, so look for the one that needs you the most and be a superhero today.

CF

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First published in the August 12, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.

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