What to do?

As I look at the pictures and watch the videos of the devastation in Japan — unfathomable even when right before my eyes — I keep wishing what I’ve wished since first hearing the news: I wish I could send money directly to Japan, whether to the Japanese government or whatever FEMA-like agency or national nonprofit it designates.

I wish I could send the money right from my PayPal account to their account, without wondering which middleman charity to go through. Which one will handle the money responsibly. Which one will spend less of it on overhead. Which one will make best use of it. Which one will get it to the people who need it fastest. Which one won’t waste all the money I’ve sent sending me endless follow-up requests for more money.

I’ve read that so much of the money donated to Haiti hasn’t even been spent or distributed, no doubt bogged down in bureaucracy or in the sheer difficulty of trying to accomplish things in such an impoverished country with little infrastructure.

Japan is so different: It has the ability to mobilize and get things done. I believe it will take care of its people. And I believe its people will take care of each other and their country. All I want to do is help. Directly help.

Do Japanese people pay taxes? I write checks regularly to the United States Treasury. Is there a Japan Treasury? A well-known Japanese charity that helps victims of disasters? A church? A temple? How about a worldwide Japan Recovery Fund, administered by the Japanese government, to be used to rebuild?

It’s sad that I don’t quite trust the big U.S. or international charities enough to donate to them without hesitation. Sure, if everything I read in the next couple days and enough sources advise me to contribute to one of them, I surely will. But I’ll keep wishing for something else.

Though, come to think of it, would I trust the U.S. government to spend my donation wisely if it were our country in this position? Ummm, clearly not, as I don’t much care for the way it spends my money in general (talk about overhead, bureaucracy, corruption….). Maybe it’s the same in Japan?

Such uncertainty.

I know I’m not alone. Everyone I know wants to help. I just wish I knew the best way to do that. It’s easy to write a check and think I’ve done my small part. It’s hard to know if I’ve made that donation work as hard as possible. Or if it’s really made a difference at all.

Dear people of Japan…how can I best help you?

Nobody made a greater mistake than
he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

~ Edmund Burke