Like many – most – people I know, I’ve had a helpless feeling gnawing at me since the beginning of the week. As I look at the pictures from New Orleans, Mississippi, and right here in our own neck of the woods, I get more and more sad and depressed. Then I hear the bozos – on all sides – start politicizing the situation, and I get almost nauseous.

My first instinct – like that of many people – is to say “What can I do? How can I get personally involved in what’s going on?” Then I hear the pleas for financial assistance , and I think, “There you go. That’s what to do – write a check!” But then, the feeling of copping out hits. You know, that weird sense of “Yeah, just go ahead and write that check. That’ll relieve your guilt and give you a good excuse for not getting in your car and heading to the hardest-hit areas.” And I get torn again.

But, at the risk of sounding like a cop-out, or a coward, or a heathen, or worse, I think, at this point, the writing-a-check thing may just be the best course of action I can take. This article from Baptist Press sums up what I’ve been thinking the last couple of days.

Yes, I would be interested in going to New Orleans, or Mississippi, or somewhere else. But when I contemplate that course of action, I’m struck with the realistic idea that that’s exactly what they don’t need there – another person in an already unmanageable crowd of humanity. I’d just be another statistic.

Yes, I’m willing to go and do hands-on ministry, but there are people who are actually trained – well-trained, even – to do just that. They don’t need me in their way. Besides, I probably couldn’t get into the worst-affected areas anyway.

Yes, I’m willing to load up materials that I think the victims could use. But I’m looking at what I think they could use from my high and dry perspective, not from the perspective of the people who are in place there already. (I’m reminded of the reports of people sending discarded fur coats to the tsunami areas last year.)

There are a lot of reasons why I should go in person. And there are just as many – or more – reasons why I’ll be writing a check or two and encouraging those I know to do the same. I can pray here. And after all, it’s the condition of my heart, not the location of my body, that matters in prayer. Those who know what they’re doing will do what they’re supposed to do, and those who need their help will be served in the most effective way possible.

Your mileage may vary…