The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on March 17, 2011.

One of the more popular pastimes this winter has been complaining about the cold weather and the amount of snow we received. Understandably, too, since we were hit with several record-breaking snowstorms that dumped more and more snow on top of snow that was already more than we could handle.

Like the snow itself, those concerns seem to be melting away now. Not just because we’re on the far end of winter, with springtime within reach and promising us that the worst is finally over, but because it pales in comparison to the horror of the earthquake and tsunami that decimated Japan last weekend. The devastation and the danger in Japan will continue to cripple the country and its people far longer than it will take the rest of our snow to melt.

As I’m writing this, the headlines in the paper give the death toll as 10,000 and rising. I’m sure that in the few days between writing and publication, that number will have increased, and even more crisis situations will have been discovered that are in desperate need of emergency response and resources.

Too many times, in recent years, we’ve been faced with natural and manmade disasters of epic proportions. Each time, in the immediate aftermath, we’ve been reminded of how much can be accomplished when all of us – regardless of our own economic situations, personal associations, or political affiliations – pull together, gather our resources, and focus on helping the victims. When we put our own issues and concerns aside, we can move mountains with the strength of our united efforts.

While national and international governments and organizations deal with the large-scale operations of trying to rescue victims and contain the damage, it is the concern and compassion that individuals have for other individuals that bring it all home for many of us. One of my first thoughts was of my nephew, who lives in Toronto but has spent several years living, studying, and working in Japan. Over the weekend, my brother-in-law in Chicago called to ask about my husband, who occasionally travels through Japan on business. And this morning, a friend told me about her cousin in Japan, who lives in a city right between two other cities that were totally wiped out by the tsunami. I will add my prayers for her safety – and that of her two-year-old child – to my prayers for aid and consolation to the thousands of nameless, anonymous victims, and my prayers of gratitude that my husband and nephew weren’t anywhere near Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck.

When I’m tempted to complain about the difficulties I have to put up with – the cold and snow that still remain, the potholes that are less-welcome harbingers of spring, and any other issues I have that are really little more than annoyances – I’ll remember what real suffering is going on in the world, and how small my problems are in comparison. I’ll redirect my thoughts, energy and resources to where they are much more urgently needed. And I’ll be grateful there’s a world of other people who are doing the same.

© Betty Liedtke, 2011