I received an email from an acquiantance the other day about a concerted effort by an alliance of private companies here in the US to help victims of the recent earthquake in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. The effort is to provide long term relief support to displaced children and families with vitamins and medicines. The alliance is disseminating the email for additional contributions from individuals and companies willing to extend financial support to the cause.

Now this practice is one proof that people are not really indifferent to social issues; that there are individuals and organizations who feel making a contribution translates to making a difference in the lives of many in need.

That feeling could be made into an equation: making a contribution = making a difference.

The equation, unfortunately, is non sequitur or the inference or conclusion does not follow the premise or evidence.

Cases in point: Last year's Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina disasters.

CNN reported in drop-off locations for relief contribution that people donated goods displaced families and individuals found no benefit from. And these include:

(1) Cosmetic items such as lipstick and make-up; (2) Canned food with weeks left before expiration; (3) Winter jackets, tattered clothes, evening dresses ; (4) Stiletto shoes, soccer cleats, and high-heeled boots; (5) Embroidered drapes and table cloths (6) Shower curtains and caps, loofas, and bubble bath soaps; (7) Thong panties and underwear with worn-out garters, and; (8) Medicines such as Viagra and Lipitor.

However good the intentions people have to help others mired in times of crises, making a contribution requires not only a great deal of sensitivity but some common sense as well.

An aid official interviewed by a reporter emphasized the relief operations best by saying:

We don’t mean to be ungrateful, but it would be appreciated if people take a little more care before just unloading their basements and garages […] [the victims] are not beggars, [they] don't need hand-me-downs."

Perhaps, if one can't contribute through financial means, a prayer for the victims would suffice. That would amount to something significant than having victims receive contributions and feel more disappointed and nuisanced than relieved.