By Anita Foster, American Red Cross, Dallas, Texas
Earlier this week, I was on the phone with Lori Hyde, one of my best girlfriends who lives in Woodbridge, Virginia. We hadn’t spoken since the earthquake and tsunami hit in Japan. Working for the Red Cross, she expects that I’ll disappear for a while as we set up relief operations, fundraisers and the like. Since the morning of March 11 though, I had been anxious to talk to her. Married to a retired Marine, Lori and her husband were stationed in Japan for a number of years, and in fact, both of her boys were born there.
Chatting like girlfriends do, she was sharing with me the culture of the Japanese people and telling stories of how they practiced tsunami and earthquake drills. I briefed her on all of the drives we had already done, and the interesting ones we had coming up. Then she said, “You won’t believe what Liam said yesterday…”And so the story begins. Lori and her 12-year-old son, Liam, were in the car driving into Washington D.C. for lunch when Liam asked her about the people in Japan. “We really don’t keep the evening news on in the house,” said Lori. “We have young boys so we try to monitor what they’re seeing, but it was obvious that Liam had done his homework because he knew all about the quake, the tsunami and even the nuclear plant.” Liam had taken the time to look behind the headlines to figure out what had happened in Japan, and for days, he internalized the information and tried to figure out how he could help. “He went to Yahoo and watched the videos of the tsunami coming in and inherently understood that people were going to suffer and need help,” said Lori. “So he asks me if he can send food or clothing or water to Japan. I explained that the best way to help was to give money. He sat silently for a minute, but I could see his wheels spinning and after a bit, he turned to me and said, ‘Well, I have money. I can give money.’ So I said sure honey. You can give half of your allowance. Liam looked at me and said, ‘No, I can give it all. They need it more than me right now.’
Together, Lori and Liam rounded up his $30 allowance, but not feeling like he was doing enough, he asked his Mom to withdraw a matching $30 from his savings account for a total gift of $60 to be sent through the American Red Cross to the Japanese Red Cross.I called Liam today to thank him for his gift and as we were chatting, I asked him some questions about how he was feeling. “When I first saw the pictures of the devastation, it was shocking,” said Liam. “I felt really bad inside. I asked my Mom if I could collect and send some things over to Japan, but she said what they needed was money so I decided to give my money to them.” When one child opens his heart to help a nation heal, it can’t help but to open ours too. Through the heart and mind of this precious young boy, we are reminded that the world is one; and when one suffers, we all suffer. Liam said it best. “After I decided to give money, it made me feel great on the inside because I know that I’m helping one human being, or in this case, many human beings.”
I asked Liam what he would do if this kind of disaster happened here where we live and spoken like the young humanitarian he is, he said, “If this happened in the United States, I could set aside some time and go there to help. Maybe I could clear debris or something.”Of course my girlfriend Lori is amazingly proud of her little boy who has so innocently reminded us what being a humanitarian is all about. “I’m so proud of him because he truly cares about other people,” said Lori. “That comes from inside of him. We just try to set a good example and then point him in the right direction so he knows how to help in the best way.”
For me, I’m proud to know a young person like Liam Hyde. A boy who would give up a video game or some other prized possession so that he could help people a world away is a hero in my mind. So we’re honored to take Liam’s $60 donation, put it together with yours and mine, and turn our compassion into action to help a nation of people on the other side of the world. Thank you, Liam Hyde. You’ve made a difference.