Time for those who can help, to do for others

“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful then a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Hurricane Matthew, in delivering Robeson County a blow like we have never seen before, was colorblind, playing no favorites. Some of the county’s most affluent neighborhoods were among the hardest hit, as were some of the county’s most impoverished, and those in the middle as well.

The response, at least on the local level, has also been colorblind, as people of all four races and every rung on the socio-economic ladder were figuratively assembled in the same room and asked to care for each other. We only hope that these “simplest acts of kindness,” as Gandhi framed them, endure to a time Matthew can truly be discussed in past tense. Although its wind and rain left us after an 18-hour pounding on Oct. 8, Matthew remains a part of our everyday conversation — and will for awhile.

It will be during the recovery that victims of Hurricane Matthew separate themselves.

Some of Matthew’s victims have safety nets, insurance policies, good-paying jobs, money in the bank, retirement, friends and family, the mix of things that shorten the road to normalcy. Then there is everybody else, those without sufficient insurance, who don’t have a job or have one with modest pay, who live check to check, and who don’t have friends and family with the resources to help — people who had little before and next to nothing now, except for a FEMA check that is a fraction of what they lost.

There is a deep dry well, and it must be filled a bucket at a time.

We have been pleased to see the trucks roll into Robeson County and Lumberton, stuffed with food, water, ice, cloths and other items that we take for granted until after the storm, when they become precious. At best, however, they are no more than bridges to what will be an uncertain future for so many.

In Lumberton public housing alone, about 300 units were flooded, and water, as we have been reminded, is the the most skilled destroyer. Those residents were given a day to retrieve what little could be salvaged, and have begun their post-Matthew life essentially from scratch when it come to possessions.

And their story is shared by thousands more Robeson County residents who likewise have limited capacity to help themselves.

In today’s The Robesonian, Managing Editor Sarah Willets has a story on efforts by the county and city to collect money that will directly benefit victims of Matthew and the amount donated so far is sad. We have full confidence in city and county officials to vet applicants and to distribute money that is collected to those who have suffered the most and whose needs are the greatest.

At the same time, the United Way of Robeson County is encouraging donations of “gently used” furniture that can turn a house that has been rehabilitated into a home. It is a good time to empty a storage unit or put to work furniture in a bedroom that is no longer occupied.

It is during times as these that much is asked of those of us who blessed to be in a position to help. Those who can, should.

After that happens, we will reemerge a stronger community than we were on Oct. 7.

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