The last 11 or so days have been, collectively, the worst stretch of time I’ve experienced. I’ve had worse individual days and moments, of course. And by absolutely no means do I have the market cornered on difficult situations. But in between events that impacted me directly (most significantly my car getting broken into and getting miserably sick), people and places I know and love have been facing impossibly more difficult circumstances.
I live in California, and while I personally haven’t been near the shooting and wildfires that have been ravaging the state the last week, they’ve been affecting folks and communities that are close to my heart. Places I used to go are no longer there. Friends have lost loved ones, everything they own, and in some cases both.
On Friday night, I stayed up stupidly late refreshing Twitter even though I was exhausted because it was the only way to know if people were safe (I firmly limit texting during emergencies so anyone at risk can conserve battery for the most necessary communications). Not only knowing that thousands of people are in danger and experiencing loss, but knowing many of them personally — and being able to do so profoundly little about it — is one of the most uncomfortable, terrifying experiences I can imagine. Certainly one of the most that I’ve been through.
Thankfully, first responders and citizens have worked tirelessly and sacrificed endlessly to ensure that as many people as possible have remained safe, as well as animals and property. It would be impossible to thank them enough. I also can’t understate my appreciation for the journalists, many of whom I know personally, that have been dedicated to covering one disaster after another and keeping the public informed while experiencing each tragedy themselves.
But that doesn’t change the fact that these moments are painful. So many have lost so much. Even for those that were further away, these kinds of tragedies strip away an element of home and security that, while intangible, is meaningful nonetheless. At the end of the day, so many people are hurting.
So what do we do when it just hurts? When there’s little or nothing we can do about it, or we’ve done all we can, and it still stings or surges up like a wave we had our back turned to? What do we say when no words would be enough to fix or fully comfort?
We stick together. We give each other hugs when we can, and find other ways to send love if we’re too far. We give what we can, whether it’s money or time or food or supplies or just a card. We tell people how much we care about them. We make sure we’re there for each other. We thank the people who have made the challenge more manageable, or kept people safe, or ensured people had correct and timely information. We keep our head above water, and tell other people when we need help doing so. We set aside our differences and work for the good of the community, both present and future. We speak thoughtfully and compassionately. We speak out when necessary. We’re honest about the fact that it might not be okay right now, and it might not get better soon, but it will get better. We hold onto hope and find strength in community.
I’m really proud to say that I’ve seen the communities affected by these tragedies do all of these things.
It still hurts. It’s not over yet. Kids, teenagers, emerging adults, and full-fledged grownups will be dealing with the effects of these events to varying extents through the rest of their lives. We won’t magically be okay overnight. But we will be okay. And that’s enough to keep going.
If you’re able to help or give in any of the ways I mentioned above, here are some helpful links (both general and a few that are particularly close to my heart):
- Victims of the Borderline shooting
- Fire victims
- First responders
- List of ways to help firefighters across California
- LA Fire Department’s list of ways to help
- Donate hydration packs to the LA Fire Department
- I believe you can use the same Thousand Oaks PD link above to send cards to the officers and first responders for this situation
- Send encouraging messages to first responder organizations on Twitter or Facebook — encouragement makes a huge difference
Coming together amidst tragedy is unfortunately something we all experience at some point. But I’m honored to be part of communities that do so selflessly, even when the heartbreak doesn’t seem to let up. If you have any questions on or additions of more ways to help, please comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.
(Photo credit goes to Jessica Burns via the LA Times.)