How Hurricane Sandy Awoke My Compassionate Self

Hurricane Sandy has devastated an area of our beloved country that is near and dear to my heart.  Seeing parts of the area lay in total destruction, particularly Staten Island and Queens, and continually hearing about how people there are still suffering in dire conditions right now, has AWOKEN my compassionate self.  I imagine I might not be alone in this vein, which is why I wanted to share my reflections.

As I am gathering items to send with a friend who is flying out to NYC tomorrow to help in the recovery efforts, I realized there are people who are staring into my window at the stop lights here in Portland who are looking for the same kind of basic support.  Why is it that I am pulled so strongly to aid those who are 3,000 miles away from me, when within a stone’s throw, I am avoiding eye contact with a homeless person who is merely asking for change?

I know all the naysayers have their hardened and cynical beliefs that the ‘everyday’ homeless person is likely going to use any funds I give them to fuel their addictions.  I try to convince myself that that’s the case every time, I turn a blind eye to them.  However, what if it’s not, what if they really are a single parent who has fled their hometown from an abusive partner and is trying to piece together a life, just as their cardboard sign says?  Why do tears stream down my face when I watch ABC news coverage of the Hurricane Sandy share stories of elderly people stuck in high-rise apartments with no electricity, water or food for days on end but then I will ignore those asking for a little support right in my backyard?

I don’t have the answer to this question. I imagine a social psychologist would be able to formulate a theory around a ‘numbing’ of our consciousness that we all develop when we are continually exposed to a similar request. However, I am going to try to make a commitment to do some of the things I think about doing as my ‘better’ self: things like loading our car up with boxes of granola bars and extra winter clothes even shoes to hand out when those much less fortunate and I come eye to eye at one of those stop lights again.
Has anyone else noticed these same phenomena? How have you reacted in light of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath? What are you doing differently now in your community?

Finally, here are two local NYC offices that are accepting resources for those affected by Sandy. The money and items you send will go directly to NYC residents and thank you for sharing this information:

Tunnel to Towers Foundation (Staten Island based Foundation)

Or make an online purchase and have the following items sent directly to City Council Member James Sanders Jr., 1526 Central Ave, Far Rockaway, NY 11691.  These are the items in need: blankets, warm clothing, socks, rubber boots, diapers (esp. toddler sizes), formula, wipes, water, flashlights, batteries.

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