OUR OPINION: Respond to need after planning, assessment

Beginning on April 27, a dangerous storm system sparked a series of tornadoes causing extensive damage and power outages across the central and southeastern United States, including Northeast Mississippi.

Much of the severe storm’s damage remains even as a massive cleanup effort has started.

Scores of churches and other religious groups plus nonreligious charities have joined in a regionwide effort to help the recovery.

The writers of the Christian and ancient Hebrew scriptures reflected what was happening around them, especially urging people to meet the needs of others in bad situations.

Luke 6:38 sets a high standard for generosity: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Matthew’s entreaty seems ideally directed at those who need to help victims of disaster and personal misfortune: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Those who offered advice in the scriptures doubtless knew that planning and method made the best use of time and generosity.

The same applies in the aftermath of the Deep South tornadoes and other natural disasters.

• Find out where and how help is needed, and try to work with others to increase the impact of what’s done.

• Don’t self-deploy on impulse.

• Don’t offer supplies that aren’t needed.

• Try to meet the monetary needs of people on site and ready to act.

• Register as volunteers so that any reimbursement for volunteer work counts to the maximum amount.

Those who have already worked in disaster zones would offer this advice: There should be no illusions about disaster volunteering; it can be dangerous, stressful work.

Everyone should think carefully about how to best assist victims, and then act in an appropriate and effective way.