More about the new book at

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It Doesn't Take a Storm

Human capacity to unite and help

The car in front of me hears the siren a moment before I do and pulls over.  I do the same then glance in my rear view mirror and watch the dense stream of vehicles behind me make way for the ambulance to get through.

Habitually, I offer a prayer. I’ve done this since I was a small child. This time with the rain falling, I offer two. One for the crew in the ambulance and one for its unknown destination. Altogether it takes a few seconds for those of us on the road to unite and synchronize our efforts.  In this case our help is to move aside so professionals can get through.

Underneath the dark sky there is no time to consider who needs the help. We don’t hesitate. We don’t ask about religious views or politics. Are they rich or poor? Gay or straight? Do they deserve it? We don’t care. None of that matters when a siren sounds.  Someone needs help so we move aside to let the ambulance through.

This human capacity to unite for a stranger always pulls gratitude from the middle of my heart into my throat. We are good on the inside. I know this but love when clear evidence is given unexpectedly. I take a huge gulp of air to keep the tears back then pull onto the road and continue driving.

I’ve always been drawn to everyday kindness and generosity. The kind offered when we think no one else is watching. When we offer a hand. When we open a door. When we make a real sacrifice for someone who will never know our name.  

And, during times of crisis the human capacity for compassion is overwhelming.  The day after Hurricane Sandy hit my telephone at work was filled with messages from people wanting to know what they could do to help. Mirroring the response after Katrina, the Tsunami and the local fires. The same response seconds after a local car accident or heart attack. People want to know what they can do to help. This is just who we are. We are good. We are generous and kind. It doesn’t matter where we live, what language we speak or God we pray to, when we see someone in need - we move.

I am humbled by the generosity of our local community members. Whether it’s lending a few hours to volunteering at the animal shelter or dedicating their life to making a difference in the world - it all matters. We can all make a difference.

Shirley Adams comes to mind. Shirley is a local woman who has made it her life work to bring access to clean water to areas of the world at the mercy of rainfall.  I think of Dan and Joan Strauss, a local family who turned the devastating loss of their teenage son Alex into efforts to prevent youth suicide in our region.

Then there is Justin. A local boy who decided one Christmas that he’d rather give a bike to a child without one than to have a new one of his own. A project that has lead to dozens of bikes being gifted each Christmas to local children.  I am reminded of The Twelve, a group of women focused on caring for local families not on Santa’s route. This is the proof I have that we are good! We are so very good on the inside.

So many of you come to mind when I think of the generosity of our local community. And, although I know it doesn’t take a storm for us to come together to help, knowing when a storm comes we have each other brings me great peace. For that, and for your incredible generosity, thank you!

This holiday season may we continue to offer our gifts of compassion and generosity to all those who cross our paths. There has never been a time when those gifts were needed more. 

(Originally published in Upgraded Living