For most of us in these United States, the past 2.5 weeks have been one for the record books with unprecedented rainfall, gale force winds, evacuations, etc. The Gulf Coast Region of the United States has been hit by two massive storms in as many weeks!
Hurricane Harvey began pummeling the State of Texas’ coast on Saturday morning, August 26, 2017, around 3 a.m. and before the Longhorn State could wring itself dry, Hurricane Irma began her assault on the State of Florida on Sunday, September 10, 2017 just after 9 a.m. at Cudjoe Key.
Harvey has been tagged as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years. To date, the death toll stands to at least 70. It has displaced more than 1 million and damaged some 200,000 homes in a path of destruction stretching for more than 300 miles (480 kms). Many of the residents of Houston, TX and surrounding areas have returned home and have begun the cleanup process by carting flood-damaged furniture and other items to the curb. Harvey decimated parts of Texas and damaged southwest Louisiana when it hit the region late last month, destroying billions of dollars worth of property. RMS, a catastrophe modeling company, estimates that Harvey has caused between $25 and $35 billion in losses that will be covered by insurance. The total economic damage, which includes uninsured losses, could be between $70 and $90 billion. That is the estimated project impact of one monster storm. This year, the U.S. is facing two!
Similarly, residents of the State of Florida, especially the Florida Keys, are now assessing the damage from Hurricane Irma. One estimate (Source: Bloomberg) dropped the cost of total damages to $49 billion from $200 billion. Still, 12.3 million people, more than half of the state’s population, were without electricity Monday evening, and millions were displaced in what may yet go down as one of the worst storms in Florida’s history. While there is wide-spread damage, it is important to note that Hurricane Irma weakened as it moved north, leaving in its wake a state that avoided the worst predictions of destruction.
Initially, those of us in other parts of the United States watched in horror as the first pictures from Harvey and Irma’s destruction were captured by news and social media. Equally, countless acts of sacrifice and bravery also emerged, as tales of rescues by emergency services, the military, neighbors, private citizens, and others who just wanted to help from 100- or 2,500 miles away were filtered across the air waves and various postings. The Cajun Navy from Louisiana – a grassroots citizens’ organization that came together in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago – mobilized to help their next door neighbors in the State of Texas. Countless persons owe their lives to many of these unsung heroes.
As I sat watching CNN and other stations broadcast updates and rescues, there was a part of me that thought it was nice to see that all of America is not divided, heartless, and at each other’s throats because of differing political opinions. Neighbors checked on neighbors, especially those with special needs or the elderly. Residents with boats, high trucks, and just about anything that would float, came to the rescue of persons in need who could not get thru to the local emergency system. So many random acts of human kindness. And for every rescue that I heard about, no one asked if the person needing help was a Republican? a Democrat? an Independent? or even if they were registered to vote?
So, what is human kindness? There are quite a few definitions, but I turned to the folks at Dignity Health for an answer. Dignity Health is known for its commercials on human kindness. Human kindness is an act of humanity. It can be an act of heroism, big or small. In contrast, kindness is more personal, but equally powerful. It’s an act in which one person creates a connection with another, which strengthens them both. And these human connections can work wonders for the human spirit.
As the folks at Dignity Health explain, In a world that can leave people isolated, [we are] helping to unleash the healing power of humanity. They go on to say, “We believe these two pillars of humanity and kindness are the yin and yang of healing: powerful alone, but better together. The stories here [website and commercials] show human kindness at work, in our hospitals and in the world. Here you have a chance to join us and share your humanity with the world. The question is, will you?”
Some of those who have stepped up to show some human kindness to residents of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean Islands are:
- JJ Watts, professional football player for the Texans, launched a fund on YouCaring.com to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 26, 2017 with an initial goal of $200,000. To date, funds raised have surpassed $30 million.
- The five living former United States presidents – Carter, Bush (41) , Clinton, Bush (43), and Obama – joined forces on Thursday, September 7, 2017 to start a hurricane recovery effort to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey. The campaign, One America Appeal, began with a public service announcement featuring the former presidents during the first NFL game of the season. “People are hurting down here,” former President George W. Bush, who lives in Dallas, said in the video, “but as one Texan put it, ‘We’ve got more love in Texas than water.’”
- Celebrities including Beyonce, George Clooney, and Jamie Foxx will help host Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Harvey Relief, a concert to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Harvey on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. The one-hour telethon will be broadcast live and will also stream live on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
- Tim Duncan, a former NBA player, has donated $250,000 to the U.S. Virgin Islands to those impacted by the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Irma. He has also pledged to match the first $1 million for those donating to 21 U.S. Virgin Island Relief Fund on YouCaring.com.
- Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show, has pledged $1 million for his organization.
Other folks across and outside of the U.S. are collecting items and money to aid so many people whose lives have been turned upside down by these two catastrophic storms.
Amy Blankson writes in The Future of Happiness: “Because at the heart of knowing ourselves is a heart; it is what makes us human…better than machines, better than the tech that we create to know ourselves better. The ultimate act of knowing ourselves might be discerning when to think with our brains, and when to feel with our hearts.”
Perhaps that is what I saw in all of the storm water and the wreckage from both hurricanes – people who were feeling with their hearts.
If you want to give through a legitimate organization, The New York Times (NYT) has compiled a list of organizations (local, national, and online) for Where to Donate to Harvey Victims (and How to Avoid Scams). More than likely NYT will create a similar list for Hurricane Irma victims.