I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
September 4, 2013
Three years ago, Nashville and the surrounding area experienced what scientists called a 1,000-year flood.
It rained hard and continuously for two straight days. By the end of the first day, I watched in horror along with the rest of the city as this happened on one of our major interstates:
If you were one of the many Suburban Turmoil readers who offered help to Nashville’s flood victims, here’s what you need to know- You didn’t just provide immediate help to people who lost everything. You changed me, too. You were instrumental in teaching me how to help others– You taught me that giving to others, physically or financially, isn’t always easy or convenient or comfortable– and also that when it is done freely and without expectation of reward or return, it is one of the best feelings in the world. Three years later, your donations have not been forgotten, either by me or by the people who received them. Even now, recipients of your gift cards still come up to me and talk about how much those cards meant to them at a time when they felt hopeless and forgotten. They take great pride now in the fact that they have rebuilt and recovered, and some have told me that they have gone on to help others in need because of the unexpected gifts they received from people like you.
You did that.
How often have we thought about giving money or time to a cause, only to be stopped by the questions that inevitably pop up in our minds?
“How can we know what she’ll REALLY do with that money?”
“I want to do something, but I just don’t have the time to get involved.”
“Doesn’t he go to a church/synagogue/non-profit center? Why aren’t THEY helping him?”
“I want to help the poor- but some of them just don’t want to change. I only want to help the ones that do.”
“I can only afford to give a few dollars– not enough to help anyone do anything.”
I’m not judging here. I’ve had all of these thoughts at one time or another. All of them. We are taught our entire lives to only invest our time and our hearts into things (and people) that will give us some kind of return. Naturally, we want the same from our charitable investments. We want to see RESULTS, and uncertainty over results tends to stop us in our tracks when it comes to donating time or money to a cause.
But think about the flood for a moment. So many people sent me literally whatever they had to give, whether it was $300 in cash or an envelope full of grocery coupons. One woman sent a box of bathroom supplies- soap, shampoo, deodorant, a few washcloths- that kind of thing. I wondered when I received it what on earth I was going to do with it. The next day, I got an e-mail about a single mom and her two teenagers who had temporarily moved into an empty house in the next neighborhood.
I took them the box.
Several months ago, I ran into that woman again. She proudly reported that she was back on her feet financially, and three years later, she wanted to thank me in particular for that box.
“We called it the Magic Box,” she said. “Any time we needed something, we’d look in the box and find it there. It just made us feel so much better to know that strangers from all over the country cared about what happened to us.”
Do you see what I’m getting at?
I’m assuming the reader who sent that box simply rounded up some items she already had in her closet and mailed them to me. Who would have guessed that something so small could have such a big impact?
It wasn’t the dollar amount of the cards and supplies you donated to flood victims that often reduced them to tears, and made them seek me out years later to ask me to thank you again. It was the knowledge that people who didn’t know them, people who didn’t even live in Nashville, cared about them.
I urge you to not let your skepticism keep you from helping others. You have taught me to trust in giving indiscriminately and extravagantly. If we err in our benevolence (and we almost certainly will from time to time), as George Saunders so eloquently put it, let’s err in the direction of kindness.
To put it more plainly, the next time your heart urges you to give, whether it’s your time or your money, DO IT.
And tell that cynical voice asking those ridiculous questions to shut the hell up.