11.03.2012

It's the small things that can make a big difference

It goes without saying that if any of my friends sent out a message asking for my help, I'd be there in an less than a heartbeat. I've certainly fielded many a early morning phone call from a friend on the west coast and have been known to get into my car to pick up a stranded friend without a second thought as to how I was still in my pajamas.

So when the call went out from my friends and family on the east coast for assistance after Hurricane Sandy, I answered the call.

And it wasn't hard to do. It didn't involve my getting on a plane (although my friend Holly Pavlika of MOMentumNation knows I would have been there...if JFK hadn't been underwater and there wasn't a major power outage) or a train or even using my automobile.

But I don't need to physically be in New York to help my friends in New York (or New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, or Maryland for that matter), instead what I can do is be what my friend Charles Bentley calls being Armchair Advocates.  Because every one of us has the power to be a "change agent." To go from a tweet to a task, and it really is a small thing.

In fact, I was fortunate enough to have that conversation with Charles a few weeks ago while he was here in Louisville visiting family. Ironically, Charles and I tried (and tried and tried) to meet up while we were both in New York attending the UN Foundation/Mashable Social Good Summit, but it was a series of missed phone calls and text messages, and Charles's work in DC that prevented that face to face meet up from taking place. And because of the way that facebook (or other social media platforms) do manage to keep us connected on a 24/7, minute by minute basis, I found out that Charles was in Louisville. Fortunately we were able to coordinate schedules and meet for a cup of coffee. During that time we talked about how we all have the capacity to step outside of our comfort zone and step up to the plate and do our part. Even if it is a small part or thing, it can still make a significant difference, especially if that small thing is done with great compassion and purpose.

So today, I became the embodiment of an armchair advocate:

Advocating from a special kind of armchair-
donating blood for the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief

My friends are facing challenges that they didn't anticipate. Power outages combined with dangerously low evening temperatures. Gas shortages. School closings. And yes, as they tell me, volunteers are needed and certainly "stuff" is needed...but where would a volunteer from out of state stay? Where would the stuff you send be put when people are displaced and damaged stuff litters the sidewalks and streets? And I'm sure at some future point in time I will be asked to travel to New York to volunteer (the answer is yes before it is even asked) and I will also be asked to help collect "stuff" (and I will do so without hesitation as well). But for now the small things I can do are

  •  text REDCROSS to 90999 and make a $10 donation
  • donate blood. 
Annaliese, a Red Cross volunteer for 27 years,
thanking me (!) for being a donor and making a difference.
I'm  thankful to Annaliese for making a difference
during my donation experience. 

And I was (oddly enough) the 43rd person to come in today to make a donation. Certainly some were donating for specific family members, but most of us who waited found the wait worthwhile and were there because someone told us a donation was needed. We talked of friends we knew who were now without, of wondering what would happen next because of another anticipated bad patch of weather ahead, of how would this impact the election. We shook our heads when someone mentioned how the entire coastline had been changed. We bowed our heads when someone mentioned how lives would potentially never be the same. We were a community of care, strangers united in a moment to do something, anything, because we felt we could do so little.

It may not seem like much, especially as I sit here in the comfort of my home, with power, safe drinking water, heat, clean clothes and the ability to take a shower. And I know that my friends know that I recognize how blessed I am to be able to take for granted all the things that we all take for granted. That only when we are forced to be without are we aware of how dependent we are on a complicated infrastructure of government, of culture and community, that keeps things moving. And sometimes a crisis shows us where the cracks (both literally and figuratively) are in the system and creates an opportunity for some incredible out of the box thinking and approaches to solutions that might not have happened otherwise.

My thoughts and prayers are with those that have lost so much during this time. My hope is with them as they rebuild. My spirit is excited to watch that rebuilding take place and unfold. My voice is here to remind us all that during a time of crisis, no matter where we are, we can help.

Do one small thing today to help someone have a better tomorrow.

And friends, I'm waiting for your call, anything you need, you've got it. Just ask.

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