Binding the wounds

“Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer* wrote to his friends at Finkenwalde after the war death of a friend in 1939. Reading that over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the mighty gap torn in the ocean floor off the coast of Japan. Whether from providence or simple geologic pressure, the gap has splintered the Japanese nation in a way that is beyond words. It is the pictures, the videos, the startling images of cars and ships and buildings tossed like toys and the human suffering that have left us speechless.

If there is one word I’ve heard more than others, it is “unimaginable.” The earthquake and resultant tsunami in Japan shocked the world. Even among usually glib reporters, there appeared to be a failure to find the right words, to describe the immensity of the destruction. It was the same way after Haiti and Katrina. And after the tsunami in Indonesia. Disasters of enormous proportions leave us all feeling a bit helpless and words do not suffice. In fact, they feel hollow.

As much as I believe in the power of words, it is in the power of doing that makes the difference. Hoping, wishing, sympathizing, talking won’t do.  It is the “be” in “being the change” that will ultimately change the circumstances and alter the landscape in the recovery of Japan. It is the ability to act — not speak or write — that shelters the homeless family or treats the injured child. Although words are powerful, words pale in comparison to a hand offered, a bandage drawn, a check written. Words can inspire but actions impress.

JMU graduate student and JMU Be the Changer Mailizar (’11M) knows this well. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that took the lives of more than 200,000 people in his native Indonesia, he helped the rebuild his neighborhood, working with his fellow citizens and with international volunteers who came to help. In the rebuilding, Mailizar learned how deep the wounds of such a tragedy go, and that healing a country, a nation, a town, a community ravaged by unimaginable tragedy takes much more than words and sentiments and well-wishes.

It takes action.

Read Mailizar’s profile at:

*from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas, page 239,


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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