Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution. -Kahlil Gibran
It was an emotional summer in these United States. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma crippled Texas and Florida within 16 days of each other, then continued as tropical storms to dump rain and damaging winds on multiple Gulf and East Coast states.
Out west, wildfires took lives and homes and burned more than 1.6 million acres across 10 states. Next, Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico, claiming more lives and leaving millions without power indefinitely.
And before we could process that, earthquakes hit Mexico, killing hundreds and leaving thousands more Americans frantically seeking word from relatives.
We watched nervously as catastrophes seemed to engulf our country. We watched the news and weather 24 hours a day, feeling useless and depressed. We hoped and prayed for everyone involved. We felt anxious and terrified.
Americans were emotionally drained and tired.
With so much loss and uncertainty ahead, they could have quit. The homeless could have closed themselves off or thrown in the towel. Those without power for months could have become angry and exhausted. They could have turned on each other and those around them. Those unaffected by any of these catastrophes could have moved on to sports or Netflix.
But they didn’t.
They stayed connected to each other through social media. Post after post showed Americans feeling sad and in shock. Some were feeling fortunate and some were feeling helpless. They were expressing the last thing I ever expected to see on the internet–compassion.
Instead, the largest Facebook presence this summer was kindness.
Among shared pictures of devastation, were friends and neighbors finding ways to help each other.
Victims shared post-storm photos and checked in. Those who had escaped tragedy offered shelter. People shared addresses and phone numbers of resources for their communities.
Kindness was everywhere.
Neighborhood businesses (including some who sustained damage) opened their doors to serve coffee and offer a place where the displaced could gather and comfort each other
Neighbors harbored pets for those forced to evacuate. Those with power offered their homes to anyone needing to cool off or shower.
In Nederland, TX a couple open their backyard to first responders and a citizen-organized distribution center.
In Ocoee, FL a woman’s house survived Hurricane Irma, though her massive trees and landscaping were ripped away. When word spread that her Koi pond was gone, neighbors relocated the surviving fish to a foster home until her pond could be rebuilt.
The suffering and recovery will be long and slow.
Many died. Thousands lost homes and jobs. Communities lost businesses, medical facilities and other infrastructure.
We are all affected. We cannot watch so many lives repeatedly torn apart and not feel something.
Help will be needed
The national disasters that happened this summer cost tens of thousands of Americans their jobs. Many victims will be displaced for years. Charitable donations and billions of dollars in federal relief are only the beginning.
It’s way too soon to quit. Recovery and rebuilding of this magnitude will take all of us.
But if we remain resolute in our caring , even the smallest act of kindness can make a difference.
Tim from Astatula, FL said it best:
“I am so amazed at the comfort and support we have gotten, when I truly didn’t think we needed it. Thank you all for the help and offers of help. Stay strong and support one another.”
If you have a picture or story of kindness in your community to share, please post it in the Comments. We could all use more good news.