The Department of Mysteries: Potter, Magic, and Mercy

by Bob Sindeldecker

This time, it’s personal.

few columns ago I elaborated on a quote from the mysterious WDD, a correspondent from Sri Lanka. WDD eventually identified himself as Wikum Dina, a student in that island nation. Wikum and I got along great, and I enjoyed talking to him. He had lots of great ideas, some of which I have stored away for future columns.

Then the tidal wave hit Sri Lanka.

I have not heard from Wikum since the week before Christmas. I have no idea whether he is dead or alive. If he is alive, he is suffering. His country has been laid to ruin, just as ours would be if a tidal wave smashed into the East Coast, Gulf Coast, or West Coast. In fact, in 1964 an earthquake in Alaska DID send a tsunami down the entire Pacific Coast from Alaska itself to Baja, affecting Oregon, Washington, California, and British Columbia in between.

What does all this have to do with Harry Potter? Not much on the surface, it would seem. But if you examine the theme that runs through all of the books, you will see it has EVERYTHING to do with Harry Potter.

You see, a disaster like this, although natural, is something like the horror wrought by Lord Voldemort during his Reign Of Terror. It struck without warning, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. People are devastated. Families are ripped apart. The living envy the dead. It is THAT bad. And in all the screaming chaos, I found myself asking one question:

What Would Dumbledore Do?

I am sure he would use his magical powers to help as best he could. He did it before; he would do it again. Then he offered refuge to those who needed it, as he did with Professor Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He formed the Order Of The Phoenix to fight evil. He protected the innocent.

Now I do not have magical powers, but I do have this column. It’s sort of magical, in a way. I can touch people with it, like a magic wand. And maybe I can work a little magic by using it to help others. This is not only what Dumbledore would do, it is what Jo Rowling does do with her Comic Relief books and other charity donations. So I am simply carrying on a noble precedent here.

Follow the links below to help the people of the Indian Ocean Basin in this, their most desperate hour. These organizations need your money, but they also need your skills. If you are a doctor, pilot, brick-layer, truck driver, whatever: make yourself available. It won’t pay as much as a job in Iraq – in fact, it won’t pay at all – but money isn’t everything. These countries all need to be rebuilt, and they are all poor, so VOLUNTEER.

Seriously, all kinds of grown-up Harry Potter fans have come out of the closet since I began writing this column. I know not all of my readers are 9-year olds who write their e-mails in pink text. One is an investment banker (hi, Colette!). You people can do something, can’t you?

Me, I am a half-blind diabetic on Social Security, and I will be sending cash to some of the groups listed below. I cannot rebuild Sri Lanka with my bare hands or adopt an orphaned child (there’s that Harry Potter theme again!) but I will do what I can. Few people have my limitations. Most of you can do a lot more. Always, there should be that question in the back of your mind:

What Would Dumbledore Do?

He would help Wikum Dina, one of our very own.

And here I was, complaining about the snow.

Action Against Hunger
ADRA International
Air Serv International
American Friends Service Committee
American Jewish World Service
American Red Cross
Baptist World Aid
B’Nai B’Rith Disaster Relief Fund
Brother’s Brother Foundation
Catholic Relief Services
Christian Children’s Fund
Christian reformed World Relief Committee
Direct Relief International
Doctors Without Borders
Food For The Hungry
International Aid
International Medical Corps
International Orthodox Christian Charities
International Red Cross And Red Crescent
International Relief Teams
International Rescue Committee
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Lutheran World Relief
MAP International
Mercy Corps
Mormon Church Humanitarian Services
Operation USA
Oxfam America
Project Concern International
Project Hope
Save The Children
Stop Hunger Now
U.S. Fund For UNICEF
World Concern
World Emergency Relief
World Vision


The American Institute Of Philanthropy closely observes and grades many U.S. charities – I repeat, U.S. charities – and can tell you how much of your money will actually go to the people who need it. International charities are not on the list, so don’t assume that means they are bogus; it just means they are outside the purview of AIP. The Americans are rated by letter grade, and you’re looking for a C or better, just like in school (doesn’t that make it simple?).


You may think you are “helping” by donating food, clothing, or materials. Don’t do that – give them money instead! Material donations create a kind of Second Disaster for relief charities. They have to dispose of the stuff or transport it, and that costs them time, effort, and (big surprise) money. But money is as light as electrons and moves just as fast, and they can spend it to buy those same materials in poor countries – sometimes the SAME poor countries that were hit by the disaster, thus restoring their economy! Now that’s my kind of magic!

On a personal note, special thanks to Rebecca Hess for making my Christmas a very happy one indeed.