We are not, by nature, a warm and fuzzy nation. There are many of us who can say honestly that we don’t really know our next door neighbors, don’t talk much to the people down the block, and have little to do with the guy who lives on the third floor. We spend more time on the computer than we do on the front porch, laughing and sharing stories, the way people did when I grew up.
As a country, we could not be more farther apart from each other. We let ourselves be divided by issues involving race, gender, sexual orientation, and whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi. You would think many times that instead of one United States, we are instead 313.9 million tiny countries unto ourselves.
And then the shit hits the fan.
Time and again, this country and its beautiful people restore your faith in humanity. When one is hurt, we all feel the pain, and this could not be more evident than in the way the people of the south rallied around their neighbors – strangers – at a time of great need.
Of course there were the police, the firefighters, the EMTs, even the National Guard. But there were the teachers, worried about their own children getting home, who stayed put with their students, many of whom would be there overnight, making sure they were calm, fed, and entertained when their parents were stranded and couldn’t reach them. There were the Churches that opened their doors to people who could get there from the highway, providing hot coffee, a warm place to rest cold and weary bones. Chef and Restaurant owner Hans Rueffert of the Woodbridge Inn in Jasper, GA offered free lunch to first responders, so the men and women working so hard to get others home to their families could enjoy a hot, home cooked meal themselves, since it will likely be many hours before they get to return to their own warm kitchens.
People ventured out into a serious storm, putting themselves in danger, to offer food, drinks, or a warm place to rest to motorists stranded for hours on southern highways. Parents ventured out to offer comfort and sustenance to a school bus driver, refusing to leave his bus until someone could come and rescue it – and there weren’t even kids on the bus! Target stores sent volunteers out to bring bottled water, food, and blankets. There was even a Facebook page set up (did you think there wouldn’t be??), reaching more than 42,000 members in one day, where people could post offers of a warm bed, a hot meal, or even to report they were making trips to various mileposts on local highways with food and water for motorists who could get to them.
Yes, we are the United States. From the true southern hospitality to the unifying Boston Strong, when we all felt for just a little while like we belonged to the people of Boston, we’re good people. We care about each other, and if you cut one of us, we all bleed a little. We’re family. And I’m so proud to be a member of this crazy, diverse clan.