The floods in Texas and India are devastating to watch unfold on the news. If you’re reading this blog, the first thing you’re probably thinking is how can I help? There are telethons and text short codes and articles about how you shouldn’t donate to this charity or that one, you want to help the pets or the elderly or the people with families or who are in some way just like you. Maybe you’ve been through a natural disaster and want them to know you know what it’s like. But where to start and how to be truly helpful are hard things to understand with these images flashing across your screen.
I believe that disasters and crises just intensify who we already are. The outer layer we hide behind drops away and the best or worst of us just shows up. There is one person who has become a viral star from the Texas floods – Mattress Matt. This gentleman is a furniture store owner with a large showroom and a caring heart. He opened his store, with all its display furniture to shelter his fellow Houstonians. He heard it was someone’s birthday so he gifted her a mattress right there on the spot. He said the money would work itself out in the long run. You could tell he wasn’t making any grand effort, wasn’t calculating how this would make him look, he was just being Mattress Matt, a guy who cared about people and had the ability to show it during this crisis.
So be yourself. Be kind, and caring, show the world what you can do. Crises are an opportunity to show up and be genuine. Use it.
But even kind and caring people can learn to do better with practice. That’s what being kind without a crisis in our everyday life does, it makes it easier when disaster comes along for us to just show up to. It’s like when your parents told you to brush your teeth every day when you were small. Eventually, no one had to tell you to brush your teeth in the morning, it’s just something you do. Make kindness like brushing your teeth.
And importantly, ask questions to avoid the disaster after the disaster. Research which charities are best for you to give to if you can give money. If you have things to donate, try to ask what people need before sending things. I have the opportunity to talk to crisis counselors who have been affected by the Texas flooding and ask them what they need before I send a big package of stuff that may or may not help. I can tailor a gift package to what that person actually needs and will use. A handknit scarf or a hand me down sweater may be given with heart but if it’s not what they need then it doesn’t really do as much as we’d hope. We can still be smart and thoughtful in a time of crisis. It’s worth taking a minute to ask or research how we can be most effective.
And we don’t have to hurry! We can be helpful next month or next year. Plan vacations to the area in the next few years to get money into the community, look at buying things from local businesses that were affected, donate to causes that will be helping with long term reconstruction, even look into environmental organizations that are working to reduce the impact of climate change or even look into local infrastructure issues in your area and vote accordingly. If you didn’t have the money to participate in the telethon or the internet challenges or to match your favorite celebrities’ campaign, know that you still have time to show up. There is always time to care.
So take a breath, always practice kindness, and just show up for each other.
What have you done to help in a disaster that you can share with us? I’d love to hear some success stories!