When It Takes the Worst to Bring Out the Best in People

The first major disaster/tragedy that I remember in my adult life was 9/11. I was in a high rise in Chicago when it happened and was evacuated. Everyone was moving in one direction in the city — AWAY. It was surreal. Then came Hurricane Katrina and then the tornadoes in Alabama. All of these things hit home for me in some way personally and perhaps that’s why they all stand out to me when I reflect on the most recent disasters and tragedies in our country — natural disasters, mass shootings, etc.

I remember when the first two happened and how I felt when I saw our country come together to support, help, encourage, pray, donate, etc as one. I felt proud to be an American, living in a country where the worst brings out the best in us.

I don’t feel that way today. After seeing the most recent natural disasters and mass shootings, and thinking about all of the things that have happened in between — hate crimes, police shootings, hate rallies, you name it — I see the reactions to the events in the past few months and I have to wonder, why does it take a disaster or tragedy for our country to come together?

Why does it take the worst to bring out the best in us?

What is that teaching our children? Why are we so reactive? Why can’t we be more proactive? Why is hate winning over our people in the hundreds of days between such events? Why are the good people who are stepping up hiding in the shadows until they’re seemingly called to action? I have so many questions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to see people of all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, political affiliations, sexual orientations, and anything else that divides us as humans, come together to help their fellow citizens. I want to live in a world where this isn’t a sometimes thing, but an always thing. I want to see the good in humanity every day! And I know that it exists because I surround myself with people who are inherently good. I have to wonder, if we heard more about the good things happening in our country every day as opposed to just the bad, would more good happen? If we were more openly inclusive of our neighbors, if we acted kindly all the time and not just randomly, if we had conversations with strangers, shared meals with someone different, volunteered for an organization supporting something we don’t understand, focused on inclusion regardless of our personal values and treated people equally as humans rather than labeling each other in groups of whatever, could we prevent some of the ugly in our world?

As I raise my children, I ask myself these questions. I don’t know if I’m doing a good job teaching them the importance of kindness, the beauty of diversity, the importance of inclusion. I hope that the majority of the time I’m modeling it, but I know I need to do better. I want my children to see that it doesn’t take a disaster, death of fellow humans, or a hurricane to step it up. People in our country are suffering every day, and it’s not always as visible as media coverage of red and blue lights flashing and caution tape, or people being pulled from flood waters. Maybe, just maybe if we acted more in LOVE every day, we could prevent some of the bad that happens and we could work towards living more harmoniously so that people can live more faithfully and less fearfully, feel more love than hate and make different choices because they feel seen and heard in a world where it’s so easy to feel the opposite.

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