It takes a disaster…

Just a few weeks ago people were fighting in front of statues and some were asking if America has ever been more divided. It turns out disasters bring out the best in people and serve to unite people behind a single cause: helping their fellow man.

CNN reports, “Companies have pledged more than $157 million to relief efforts as of Friday [September 2], according to an estimate from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce…. Walmart has pledged up to $20 million in cash, products and matching donations, while Verizon has contributed $10 million… [and] tech billionaire Michael Dell pledged $36 million to relief efforts.”

CNN adds, “In 2005, Hurricane Katrina and Rita brought in more than $1 billion in business aid within the first six months of each disaster… The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 raised $566 million from corporate donations, while the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami brought in $301 million. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 raised $141 million within the first six months in business aid.”

It’s not just corporate donations that have come pouring in. ESPN reports J.J. Watt, a Defensive End for the Houston Texans, sought to raise $200,000 to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey, pitching in the initial $100,000 donation. By the end of the week, “the amount donated surpassed his updated goal of $17 million.” Watt has also put his muscles behind his mouth, helping unload “semitrailers of supplies donated for Houston relief.”

Watt said, “I’m not just here for the initial fundraiser. I’m here to make sure that we take care of you down the road.”

This is one aspect of disaster relief that is often overlooked. It’s easy to see the immediate affects of a disaster: flooded homes; cars destroyed by water and debris; the loss of life and property. It’s a little more difficult, for those outside of the affected area, to notice the long-term impact of a major disaster. A dozen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, some cities in Mississippi are still feeling the effects: loss of businesses and houses that were never rebuilt, loss of population that never returned after evacuating, and in some cases protracted fights with insurance companies and local governments. Though as with many things, out of sight does mean out of mind; and with the constant news-cycle coupled with social media, people quickly tire of hearing about a story, and something else becomes the literal flavor of the week.

While it does warm my heart and restores my faith in humanity to see an outpouring of support when a disaster happens, it’s sad that absent a reason to set-aside differences people are too often simply not kind to one another.