Today we are still evacuated from our coastal homes in Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida. Sitting in a small hotel room in a small town in Alabama has allowed me lots of time to reflect. Today people are struggling to make sense of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma. Today is also the anniversary of the horrific attack of September 11, 2001. How are these two events so closely intertwined?
Lately the news has been so overwhelmingly negative. Social media is filled with images of police using excessive force, vengeful attacks on police, angry mobs carrying torches and screaming epithets of hatred. I read about frightening incidents of road rage, people purposefully driving vehicles into innocent groups of people, bombs being set off at concerts. It is easy to sink into feelings of depression and despair.
But, what IS real? Can I allow the media to shape my vision of the world I live in? Let’s take a moment and think back to 9/11. Yes, this was a hideous act of terrorism. However, out of this act emerged tremendous human kindness and selflessness. People, complete strangers, reached out helping one another with no expectation of anything in return. The news was filled with images of men and women committing amazing acts of courage and kindness. The lesson I learned from 9/11 was that the light of humanity in all of us is not easily extinguished. Good Samaritans are everywhere. Instead of diminishing our country, it was strengthened. There was a resurgence of pride in being an American. Flags flew proudly across our nation.
Look at the human response to Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were countless examples of people risking their own safety to rescue a complete stranger. People from all over the country mobilized to help in any way possible. Today, people are already reaching out to see how they can help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We are strong. We are resilient. We are America.
Will bad people still do bad things? Sadly, yes. But I prefer to see the good in people. One of the elementary schools in my Georgia community is challenging students to perform daily Random Acts of Kindness. We are instilling in our youngest citizens the importance of doing good, showing compassion, being kind.
When the news reporters interviewed the everyday heroes of 9/11, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, they all had one common response. When asked, “How does it feel to be a hero?” every one of them said, “I am not a hero. I was just doing what anyone would. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing; I just did it.”
These folks are right. Yes, what they did was heroic, but I believe that within all of us lives a hero. Too often the media focuses on the negative, the frightening, and the violent. These isolated incidents sell news, but they are not representative of who we are as Americans. Kindness, in its every day form ~ quiet, gentle, subtle ~ doesn’t attract attention and so, often goes unnoticed.
What is the lesson here? I have been reminded today that it is human nature to care, to protect, to love. I choose to believe that this is the true picture of who we are as a human race and as American citizens. I am actually grateful for this day of reflection. I am happy in my restored belief that Kindness Lives.