On Who We Can Be

Difficult times have a way of making us forget our differences.

As I write this, the people of Houston, and much of south Texas, are beginning a difficult recovery from hurricaneHurricane Harvey helped us forget our differences Harvey. The rest of the country watched as Harvey hit the coast with 132 mph winds and over 50 inches of rain. So far, we know that at least 39 people died, and over one million people were forced to leave their homes. We still don’t know the full impact from this disaster.

In the midst of the tragedy, however, we have also seen the best of humanity. We have seen the many volunteers who left their safe, dry homes to help total strangers. Many people used their personal boats to rescue those stranded by the flood waters. One man had no boat, so he bought one, just so he could help. Others waded on foot through the waist-deep waters to carry people and pets to safety. Many others volunteered at shelters to provide a dry bed and warm food to the rescued.

There was the incident where volunteers formed a human chain to rescue a woman in labor and her husband from rising waters. Another human chain was used to rescue an elderly man from his car. A furniture store owner turned his stores into shelters for the homeless. One woman died to save her baby from the waters. A news station tweeted, “Harvey has taken a lot, but it will NEVER take away our humanity.”

Of course, Harvey isn’t the only example of people demonstrating their best selves in the midst of tragedy. We have seen it many times in America and around the world. Such times tend to bring out the best in us. We forget our differences. There are no Democrats or Republicans, no whites, blacks or Hispanics. No one asks whether the victim is an immigrant or a native. No one questions her religious beliefs. In these times, we just see caring humans reaching out to hurting humans.

This unification of spirit was especially poignant this week, given the current divisions in our country. I can’t recall a time where our people have been so polarized; liberals versus conservatives, alt-right versus alt-left, pro-Trump versus anti-Trump. We see politics dividing neighbors, even family members.

So, as tragic as Harvey was, a small silver lining appeared behind those ominous hurricane clouds. We saw an example of what we can be. We saw evidence that our similarities far outweigh our differences. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could remember this without the pain of a disaster?

I'm a psychologist, who helps people who have sustained self-esteem wounds from past negative experiences, overcome those wounds and experience a more positive self-worth, so they can live more joyful and satisfying lives.