Humbled By Small Acts of Kindness After Irma

Offering acts of kindness allows you to make a genuine connection with people, people who are hurting. A small gesture may be exactly what that person needs in that moment.

Hello, my friend.

Full disclosure here– I can’t call myself a “hurricane survivor” because my little tribe and I escaped to the great north instead of remaining in Florida during Hurricane Irma. But my beloved town, St. Augustine, most definitely has weathered it, along with so many loved ones who stayed. And since life still can feel upended even when you escape out of the path of the wretched storm, I’m going to share some lessons I’m learning from this current whirlwind. Forgive any poor writing or nonsense, and chalk it up to the fact that I am typing on a laptop that is covered in a film of whatever sugary treat was fed to my child who watched movies on said device hour upon hour in endless traffic yesterday. The stickiness is a little bit distracting.

One thing I’ve observed is that the whole concept of paying it forward is on display in the most beautiful way when we are in the midst of crisis. Families that lost everything and relied on help during Hurricane Matthew are now opening up their doors and serving pancakes and coffee, clearing debris, and offering to do laundry for people who are currently suffering. They are living out 2 Corinthians 1:4, taking the encouragement they’ve received and then letting it overflow into others’ lives.

Difficulties can truly bring out the best in us, drawing us together as political, racial and economic differences fade to the background. Driving home yesterday (along with half of the state of Florida) was pretty much insane. Highway 95 was a parking lot, and I started to wonder if Waze was to be trusted when we were the only car directed down a deserted road with a sign for “Farish Deer Processing in 6 miles.” After twelve hours of this ride, things took a turn for the worst at an iffy rest stop overloaded with garbage and way too many people. Lines for the restroom were too long, and for the life of me I could not figure out why a very loud woman was just wearing her bra and leggings. Kids were screaming, chaos was reigning, and I started to feel a little unsafe and very stuck. In the midst of this, a little act of kindness made such a difference. The young woman in front of me in line observed my daughter Charlotte’s desperation for the bathroom and had us go first. I know– such a little thing. But it instantly stopped my critical assessment of the “sea of humanity” in front of me, and caused me to look someone in the eye and notice her goodness.

‘Connection happens when we have honest conversations with people who look and think differently that we do, step out of our comfort zones and offer small (and large) acts of kindness, and recognize that most people are longing for and dreaming of the very same things we are– strong families, safety, belonging and love.’

There is no doubt that distance demonizes. Face-to-face, we are much more likely to recognize all that we have in common–if we slow down and really look. We are wired for connection, and if we are able to look past the things that make others different, we are able to grab hold of each other in little ways and offer hope and encouragement and love. I connected with a young woman in line, someone I will probably never see again, and I was better for it.

This interaction, and an interview with Dr. Brene Brown that I listened to as we drove, made me think about the way social media can get in the way of genuine connection. We all observe things being posted on social media that would likely never be said directly to someone’s face. We are emboldened by the “distance,” and send pot shots or snarky comments across the web. We feel safe to do so.  What Dr. Brown wisely observed is that social media is great if we use it to connect, but it is a horrible place to process your pain. Unfortunately, social media seems to be the place that a lot of people work through their emotions, political convictions and prejudices. This is, honestly, a horrible place to have “conversations” that really need to be had face-to-face. When I post that I am “praying for Florida and my loved ones who are facing the hurricane there,” it’s not a helpful or life-giving comment when someone replies that perhaps I should pray that my senator would acknowledge the effects of climate change. Facebook is the wrong place for this particular conversation. It simply causes alienation and builds walls.

Our country is more polarized and divided than it has been in decades. We can look to politicians, hoping and praying that they find a way to work together and bring change. But real transformation and bridge building is going to occur on the local level. It happens when we have honest conversations with people who look and think differently that we do, step out of our comfort zones and offer small (and large) acts of kindness, and recognize that most people are longing for and dreaming of the very same things we are– strong families, safety, belonging and love.

With gratitude for small acts of kindness, and prayers for homes and power to be restored in Florida~

Lisa

Lisa Brenninkmeyer
Founder and Chief Purpose Officer
Walking with Purpose