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Everything hurts (and it’s going to be okay)

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):

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.)

Give a little

The idea of giving back when struggling to get on your feet can feel like trying to pull a loaf of bread out of an empty basket. It doesn’t always feel possible, and it can be tough when you feel like keeping what you have would make things just a little bit safer or easier. That impulse isn’t bad — it’s wise and advisable to make sure your needs are met. But sometimes generosity is more important than keeping a little extra for tomorrow, and giving up some niceties to make sure other people’s needs are met is a mark of compassion. Frankly, our world could use a lot more of that.

I’m not here to tell you what or how you ought to give. But giving is important. I make sure that a portion of my income gets donated every week, often to my church, but sometimes to charities or specific causes.

That said, money is by no means the only way to give back. Especially if you’re living and saving off of limited funds, sometimes there isn’t much extra to give. But time, effort, and skill are just as valuable — and sometimes even more so.

I try to make sure I spend time volunteering consistently. As a note, one-off volunteering gigs are cool and can make a difference, but consider making a steadier investment whenever possible with an organization or ongoing project. For another example, I enjoy crocheting because it helps me destress and eases my habit of fidgeting, so last week I signed up to crochet hats and scarves that will be given out to people who are homeless as winter approaches.

One important adulting tip: Most donations are tax deductible, so be sure to get proof of the donation (usually just a receipt) and file it away for when tax season comes around.

More urgently, unbelievable numbers of people are currently in crisis from natural disasters. On my mind most prominently are the millions of people who have been left without power or sufficient aid in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. A large part of my family is from Puerto Rico, and the loss the island has seen is devastating. Thankfully relief organizations and private citizens are responding, but much more help is needed. Of course, Puerto Rico isn’t the only place in need. Mexico is still recovering from multiple earthquakes; Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

EDIT: Hours after this post went up, people attending a music festival in Las Vegas became victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history; at least 58 are dead and at least 515 are injured. I’ve added ways to help to the list below.

Again, what or how you give back is no business of mine. But even for those of us that are still trying to figure out adulting (and no less importantly for those who have more experience and resources), giving back is how we grow. Individually, it helps us grow in compassion, awareness, and ability. Collectively, it helps us grow in relationship, strength, and resilience.

I’ve listed a number of charitable organizations (specifically for disaster relief) below if you’re able/willing to give.

These are non-local or large-scale organizations, but local communities are just as important and can be more effective. For local ways to give back, check out your city’s or county’s website, Google information about volunteering in your area, or (if you’re comfortable doing so) see what opportunities local churches and faith communities offer.

I know that was a ton of info, but hopefully it was helpful. We may not have a lot to give, but if we all give a little, we can do more good than we know. What ways do you enjoy giving back? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks so much for reading; let’s make the world a little better this week.