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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.)

For heaven’s sake, the people around you are human

Today’s post is going to be a little different than the usual, but I think the message is too relevant to ignore. Hopefully everyone can take something from it, no matter one’s age, beliefs, or background.

The world is complicated, and bad things happen. Neither of those facts are new. People all over the world are hurting and lost, for more reasons than I at least will ever understand. For people living in the U.S., some of that chaos has seemed relentless recently. From natural disasters to displays of prejudice and hatred, so many people are feeling unsafe.

It is worth noting that life never promised us safety, and to live only in fear is to cease living at all. But I believe with absolutely everything I have in me that each of us is responsible to work toward the safety and well-being of our fellow humans. I might dislike you, disagree with you, or even distrust you, but as a human being you deserve my compassion and basic respect.

This idea has been summed up a lot of different ways, but the one I come back to most is “Love your neighbor.” Of course, the key is to realize that my neighbor is not just someone near me or similar to me, but rather includes anyone whom I am able to help. That’s a big task — we, alone, are not able to help everyone. But we do have a responsibility to help. We have a responsibility to help not just when asked, but when we recognize a need; not just when we want to but probably more importantly when we don’t want to; not just when it is convenient but when it costs us something.

I will be the first one to admit that I mess this up all the time. Sometimes I do not pay enough attention to the needs of others, or move past them in hopes that someone else will step up, or only help reluctantly and sparingly. It happens, and it’s a very human thing to do. However, only taking the risk will help make our world a better place to live in. Only suffering the cost will help make humanity better. Only reaching out when it would be easier to not will help spread hope to the people who need it most.

In the span of only a few weeks, North America is facing up to three hurricanes, a number of wildfires, and a continuing pattern of social turmoil. Recent flooding in South Asia and Sierra Leone has led to thousands of deaths. Syria is still in the middle of a civil war, and innocent people are constantly caught in the crosshairs.

I don’t say all of these things to tell you the world is ending or to suggest that we should all drop everything and focus all our energy on these crises. There is still a need to fulfill our pre-existing responsibilities, and to remember that it is okay and even good for joy to be found despite pain. But I am saying we each ought to find a way to help, with one of these issues or another. Donate to a relief organization, volunteer at a local homeless shelter, be kind to the person who was a jerk to you.

No action truly done for another person’s well-being will be without positive impact. You may not see it immediately or ever, but it’s worth it nonetheless. I’ve linked above to some helpful information, but it is my hope that we also take it upon ourselves to learn more about the people around us, to keep our eyes and hearts open to the fact that they are human, and all the significance that holds.

I know this was a heavy post, but part of being an adult is acknowledging and acting in the face of difficult things. Feel free to share thoughts or comments below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up, and let’s love our fellow humans this week.