This is not the blog post I was expecting to write this week…but when I sat down to clean up my post about Georgia’s Canyon Climbers this past Monday (coming soon), I couldn’t get into the right headspace. With the tragedy in Las Vegas last weekend and the disasters in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the islands weighing down, I couldn’t adequately give the canyons the attention they deserved. Every time a new disaster rolls around, it seems to push all the others aside in the news cycle, but it doesn’t make them any less heavy.
I feel useless. Especially this week. I want to open up my arms and pull the world in close, and hug it tight enough that all the pieces will magically set and heal up right away. Does anyone else feel totally helpless in the face of tragedy lately?
Sometimes I think that there is nothing I can do that will really make a difference to anyone. I feel like, since I haven’t been personally involved in these hardships—none of those who lost their homes in the hurricanes were my family; none of those affected by the evil in Las Vegas were my friends—that I can’t properly empathize, and therefore can’t properly help. I live in a world that will keep on spinning if I turn off the news and don’t click on the Facebook videos. I can ignore it, but I don’t want to.
I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to do something. I want to feel helpful and know that my life somehow makes a difference in someone else’s world. So here is a compilation of things you can do to help out, no matter how big or small a gesture.
1. Donate Blood: In the first day or two following the shooting in Las Vegas, so many people showed up at local blood banks that they actually had to turn away willing donors. Maybe I’m emotional right now, but I teared up a little when I first read this. That’s not to say, though, that they had met their needs for blood donations. Those blood banks didn’t have the time and personnel necessary to accommodate the number of volunteers. Whether or not you live in the Las Vegas area, blood banks are always in need of replenishment of blood (and plasma) for life changing blood transfusions. You can help to keep your area’s blood banks well-stocked for current patients and future ones.
2. Become an Organ Donor: Becoming an organ donor is the easiest thing in the world. And, heaven forbid something were to happen to you, it’s not only the ultimate way to pay it forward, it also can help to give your loved ones some peace of mind in knowing that you were able to enhance someone else’s life as your final act on this earth. I feel really dramatic writing that, but it’s true. All you have to do is click “yes, I want to be an organ donor” when you apply for/renew your driver’s license, and register on the Donate Life database.
3. Give a Dollar to… almost anyone. This can be the most immediate way to help, because you can literally do it from your phone or computer right this minute (right after you finish registering as an organ donor). It doesn’t have to be a lot in order to make a difference –the Houston Food Bank advises that one single dollar can help to provide three whole meals…which seems like black magic to me, but I’ll trust it. If you don’t have the time to shop for a drive or participate in a blood drive, giving money is the easiest and quickest way to make a direct impact on the relief of your choice.
Pro tip: properly vet your organization of choice before you donate. Make sure you that your money is going to make the biggest impact possible!
To donate to Hurricane Harvey victims:
To donate to Hurricane Irma (Florida) victims:
To donate to Hurricane Maria (Puerto Rico) relief:
To donate to the islands:
To donate to general relief:
4. Participate in a Drive: I came really close to redacting this tip, because I got lost in a rabbit hole researching the Puerto Rico relief. And ya know what? I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that there’s not a simple solution to the utter disaster that has ripped up that island. I’m frustrated that there are stockpiles of supplies just waiting to be delivered…and then once they are delivered, they are struggling to distribute them. Lots of articles advise caution when donating physical items in a relief drive, because the overflow of supplies can cause an issue in and of itself. However, there is no denying that Puerto Rico is in dire need of help. Be mindful that what you have chosen to give is needed and necessary. And if you are in doubt and unsure that your donation will be the most useful way to help out, save the money and refer back to tip #3.
5. Adopt a Pet: This is one of my favorite tips, because—like registering as an organ donor—the concept is two-fold. Animal shelters everywhere have taken on the burden of sometimes hundreds of new animals that have been displaced by the hurricanes. One shelter near me waived adoption fees a few weeks ago, in hopes that eager cat- and dog-parents would seek the opportunity to help lighten the load. Have you been feeling that empty hole inside you as each tragedy that rolls in slowly eats away at the earth beneath you? (Too dramatic? Sorry-not-sorry.) Adopt that dog! Rescue that cat! Sometimes a warm body is all it takes to melt the chill. Knowing that that furry little monster is waiting for you to come home can keep some of the ice away. If you have been thinking about adopting, this is your sign. Do it. Those animals deserve a life beyond the shelters.
6. Say Thank You to a Public Safety Worker: If you’re ambitious, send a thank-you letter to the first responders out in Clark County, Nevada. The fire fighters, police officers, hospital workers, 911 dispatchers…they all deserve a high five and a glass of wine. But the ones in your hometown do, too. They may not have been involved in something quite as sensationalized as a mass shooting, but they do what they can every day to keep the people in your hometown safe and healthy. Send a letter to your local hospital. If you see an officer in uniform, shake his hand and tell him thank you. Because, trust me, they don’t hear it enough.
7. Pay it Forward: The hardest part of the Las Vegas shooting for me to swallow was the astronomical number of deceased. Over 50 people had died, and the only name we were seeing over and over again on the news was our perpetrator. In a smaller act of violence, we would have known the names of those we lost, but there’s no way to really honor each life lost when the number is so large, so they become just that—a number. I recently lost someone from my own life, and his community rose up around his family to do everything they could to remember him. It was then that I realized that even though those who died in Las Vegas may be just a number to me, they each had their own communities who absolutely know their names.
There’s no way to know what the people around you are carrying with them. Be kind to the people you pass by today. Tip your barista a little extra. Donate clothes you no longer wear. Check in on friends you haven’t heard from in a while. You don’t have to make a grand gesture in order to brighten someone else’s day. With everything that has been going on, we all could stand to be a little warmer to those around us.
8. Remember this in the months to come: The news cycle will move on. New crises will move in, but those affected by the tragedies right now will continue to deal with these issues for a long time. With the holidays coming up, remember these people who have lost their homes and loved ones. The relief efforts won’t end anytime soon, so there will be plenty of time and opportunities to exercise the ideas listed here.
And these suggestions may not sew up that hole inside you, but it’s a start.