Perhaps this tragedy _ which has thrust tens of thousands of individuals who have been living at the margins of our prosperous country onto our television screens and into our awareness _ will do something to us. Perhaps it will provoke more than Americans just reaching into their pocketbooks.
How, after all, will the money be spent? Will these homeless souls wind up in the American equivalent of refugee camps?
Certainly, government funds will have to play a large role here. But government is not going to solve this massive human problem. This is going to be a challenge that American communities and citizens must rise to.
Our communities have always done well with bringing in refugees from abroad. Organizations like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lutheran Immigrant Aid Society, International Rescue Committee, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Church World Service and others have provided community frameworks for helping refugees build new lives in America. They provide sponsorship and help with housing, furnishings, food, clothing and assistance with finding employment, health care and education.
We must embrace these new refugees the same way. Through our churches and other social organizations, we should immediately start organizing means to identify and sponsor those in need. We should initiate an "adopt a family" program that will help these unfortunate souls to start new lives.
My cousins were lucky. They have been in touch with their family and friends, and we are taking care of them.
I am sure there are tens of thousands who do not have this good fortune. We need to reach out and embrace them. By doing so, we will help them rebuild and, perhaps also, integrate them into America as they never had been before.