Specifically, hurricane Zeta hit my neighborhood, and the results, while not catastrophic, were certainly impressive. The massive old trees that shade the streets and make pandemic sanity walks more pleasant were suddenly a liability. Hundred-year-old oaks uprooted, crashing into houses, blocking roads, snapping power lines. By the end of the storm, everything was covered in debris. No power, no internet. Virtual learning was out of the question and forget about working from home.
Nobody needed all of this amid what was already a very difficult year, and I was prepared for more anger, more frustration, and just general unpleasantness in my community.
Walking around post-storm, however, I was struck by what I saw. Instead of frustration, I saw acts of kindness all around me. People were coming together to fix the damage and help others. They checked on their elderly neighbors and ran extension cords from houses that still had power to the street so passersby could charge their phones. Kids directed traffic and cleared streets themselves when the city was slow to help.
And what’s more, everywhere I saw people outside and happy, encouraged by the generosity of their neighbors. In one especially memorable moment, a woman shouted across the street to a friend, “I haven’t seen the news in days because of the power outage. I think I might be a better person for it!”
In our current polarized environment, we focus on what divides us. We find it difficult to get past our perceived differences in values and opinions, but all it takes is an act of nature to remind us that we’re in this together.
As I watched people reach out, regardless of political affiliations, and differences of opinion, I was encouraged that we haven’t forgotten how to be neighborly. We let the news, the election, the opinions of our fellow Americans, give us excuses to put up barriers between ourselves and others.
But how different would our country be (and how much better would we feel today) if, instead of putting up bigger “fences” to avoid interacting with the neighbors we disagree with, we extended a spirit of generosity and kindness? Perhaps, we could better weather the storms that threaten our communities if we just remembered how to be a good neighbor.
Photo by Noel on Adobe Stock