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Lessons From Hurricane Irma: Being An Ally During A Crisis & Everyday

As a resident of Florida, I witnessed first-hand the miracle of Hurricane Irma. That’s right, the miracle. From pre-landfall to response then recovery. I had the opportunity to see the best of humankind. There was no regard for race, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, differently abled or sexual orientation.

Residents of Bradenton, FL fill sandbags to ward off possible flooding from Hurricane Irma. (Richard Dymond, Bradenton Herald)

All the barriers that unconsciously, or consciously, manifest in our behaviors to keep us separated vanished. We shared roadways as we evacuated, split the last case of water on the grocery store shelf, filled sandbags together, gave our generator to someone who needed it for their partner’s life support equipment, waited patiently in gas lines, made room for one more in our homes or shelter, donated goods and services…the list goes on and on!

Who we are did not matter… what we DID mattered.

I am sure you may have seen the events of Irma unfold on your television or devices or in person. It was a truly moving experience to be a part of humankind being kind to other humans and truly caring for one another.

While I worked together with friends, neighbors, and strangers to prepare for Hurricane Irma, I become curious. Why do we rally to be our best selves in times of disaster (impending and actual), yet in our daily lives we may choose another set of behaviors?

Maybe when our lives are not threatened, we function on automatic, ignorant of the suffering around us and our privilege. We chose to turn a blind eye to the fact that there is an ongoing crisis in our communities every day, even among the circle of people we regularly interact.

What if today, and everyday afterward, we chose to see our community in need of our energy, advocacy.

What if we came to understand that an alliance with others means to more deeply understand their plight and move collectively forward to create everlasting positive change.

Being an Ally.  Every.  Single.  Day.

In the last five days, my behavior has been different. I have exercised these same behaviors in other times of crisis…but they were not a daily practice. I am changing that by making a commitment to actively practice what I have witnessed in myself and in others these last few days. I will not revert to my routinized pre-Irma behaviors. I created a list in an effort to be transparent and to hold myself accountable.

This is what I typically do to support others:

  • Write my congressional representative and senators about issues I am most concerned.
  • March in rallies.
  • Post yard signs.
  • Engage in deep conversations with like-minded people.
  • Attend town hall meetings when my federal representative is back in our district.

In addition to the aforementioned behaviors, this is what I will start to do daily mostly as a stronger ally for others :

  • Find ways to be an ally that expands beyond my episodic activism.
  • Build upon my knowledge of ways to create constructive change.
  • Ensure my behaviors are consistent with my articulated beliefs.
  • Lean into my discomfort for true self-discovery.
  • Reach out and speak up.

Yes, it’s just five more behaviors. I won’t pretend that I have being an ally all figured out but what I can say with certainty is that we have to start in order to get anywhere. I am choosing to see my community and our country in the state of crisis that is in on the daily basis and not just when it’s newsworthy. I plan to fully integrate these behaviors into my daily life. Even if it’s not my list, I urge you to do the same.

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