Some straight talk. This should come as no surprise, but the news media is all about drama. And even an earthquake that decimated, and I mean flattened, the town known for its churches and storied pasta sauce seems not to be enough. I've read news stories that the quake destroyed Montepulciano (look at a map, it's far out of the danger zone, people who live in that part of Tuscany report nothing but mild swaying) and that the epicenter was near Perugia and the entire country was hit. Clearly, no one is bothering to fact-check. Here is the fact. This story needs no embellishment. Upwards of 200 people are dead, and rescue workers have 100 hours left to hope to find more survivors. Several towns that you might never had heard of but nonetheless have been homes to generations of Italian families buying olive oil and wondering when to go to the sea, and worrying about their children—these towns are leveled, and will likely never recover.
That is plenty dramatic. Now let's get to work and help.
1) If you are planning to be in Italy soon, don't cancel your trip because of fear-mongering newscasters that perpetuate the rumor that the entire country was wracked. Instead, continue with your plans, and when you are in the Bel Paese, order plenty of Amatriciana. Many restaurants are donating a portion of the proceeds of this fabulous pasta to the victims of the earthquake. Also, there will be many collections sites for canned goods, primarily in grocery store parking lots. So if you are driving by one, don't just cluck and sigh about how sad it is. Park, go into the store, buy some canned goods, and drop them off. Yes, you may be a little late to check into your charming agriturismo nestled among grapevines, but nobody will mind, and you will feel 1000% better.
3) Host a virtual sagra. This weekend would've been the 50th anniversary of Amatrice's annual celebration of their fabulous pasta sauce. Why not invite people to come for a heady plate of pasta and a glass of Italian wine... they can donate what they would've spent on a evening out, and you can send those proceeds to a disaster relief agency. Some friends and I did this a few months ago to aid in the refugee crisis–we each made a vat of soup and invited everyone we knew to share soup and community. We donated over $2000 to the arm of the International Rescue Committee's relief efforts in the middle east, as well as a roomful of goods for our local refugee population. But the bigger boon was the meal itself. It was ebullient, with people connected by a shared love of people and a refusal to partake in the negative rhetoric surrounding this victims of war. Need a recipe for Amatriciana? I got you.
4) Share this information. Humanize it-- when people just read a news story it feels distant, when a friend talks about it, it feels real and important to pay attention to. And remember this, this devastation feels personal because we love Italy. But disasters happen all over the world, and just because we have a harder time identifying with people in more remote corners of the world, doesn't make the people impacted by those events any less human. It's a stuck place I myself get. This is easy to relate to, so I want to help, but it reminds me that we are all connected. Not just to places and people we resonate with, but to souls all over the world. Can we make a pact to remember that the next time there is an earthquake in Indonesia or a bombing in Nigeria?