With all of the large-scale tragic events in the news these days – tornadoes in Oklahoma; wildfires in California; explosions in Boston, Texas and Bangladesh; the flooding in the Midwest; mass shootings in schools and movie theaters – it’s easy to feel insecure or even pessimistic about the world we live in. In addition to the accidental tragedies that wreak chaos and destruction, we have other events that are premeditated and perpetrated by fellow human beings who have lost their way due to mental illness or evil influences.
Although the stories of these horrific events and unimaginable acts garner the most news coverage, I know that these are still anomalies – the exceptions to a world full of good people. Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, wrote, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
By the time the news cameras arrive, those first responders are already on the scene rendering lifesaving first aid and comfort to the victims. We know we can count on hundreds, even thousands, of responders – fire fighters, EMTs, police officers, doctors, nurses, ordinary citizens with training in first aid and CPR – for every single tragic event.
I’m reminded of the goodness, the selflessness of most people every day when I go to work. As the executive director for the American Red Cross of East Alabama, I witness the love and compassion of volunteers here in our community and across the nation when people face their darkest hours. Red Cross is able to carry out its mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. Did you know that volunteers make up 94 percent of our work force?
Last year, right here in East Alabama, 193 Red Cross volunteers worked 17,842 hours – the equivalent of 446 40-hour work weeks. The 54 families that suffered devastating home fires in our community felt as shattered as victims of Superstorm Sandy or the Boston Marathon Bombing. Our disaster teams gave these families a place to stay, clothes to wear and money for food and other basic needs. Last fall, 16 of our volunteers spent three weeks each in the Northeast helping the victims of Superstorm Sandy, and we’ve already sent two local volunteers to Oklahoma. When emergencies occurred, we brought 93 service members stationed all over the world home to be with their families in East Alabama. We assisted 470 elderly and disabled clients with their utility bills in the coldest and hottest months. We taught more than 1,200 people how to save lives through our First Aid/CPR/AED courses. And we collected nearly 3,500 units of blood, which will be used to save or sustain the lives of more than 10,000 people. In short, with the help of volunteers and donors, the Red Cross is here for people in those unexpected moments of greatest need.
Remember, when you hear about tragedies in the news, that goodness abounds and far outweighs the bad. Every day, I witness the goodness, courage and compassion in people. Red Cross is not a government-funded agency. We are regular people working together to help our neighbors when bad things happen. You can join our team of good folks by giving money, donating your blood or offering your time. Visit www.redcross.org or call us at 334.749.9981.
Executive Director, East Alabama Red Cross