Commentary: Humanity – Nonprofits Strengthen, Bind The Nation
In the midst of this ever-changing and challenging world, some people might call me a contrarian. Granted, it’s a time when conversations are often divisive, but I choose to embrace the spirit of optimism, in my role as president of the American Red Cross.
From one moment to the next, I see the heartbreak from devastating disasters, yet it is often followed by incredible resiliency and hope from people who have just lost everything. I see countless families with tremendous needs in our communities, and I also see how volunteers and nonprofits are continually stepping up to make a real difference in their lives. The beauty of being in a role that helps others is that hope is inevitable.
Throughout our history, the values that unite us as Americans — love of our fellow neighbor, care for those less fortunate, service to our country — are infinitely stronger than the forces that divide us. I know this because I see the amazing work done every day by organizations that bring people together from different backgrounds and points of view to serve people in need.
Whether it’s the American Red Cross or other dedicated nonprofits and faith-based organizations, we are all interacting with people who may be very different from us, but they still believe in our common humanity. I’ve visited countless shelters during disasters, and I’ve seen volunteers from many backgrounds and organizations working side-by-side to provide comfort and hope, and their spirit of giving back never fails to amaze me.
Today, our country is experiencing more frequent and intense natural disasters driven by a devastating climate crisis, yet I am still heartened by what I see. I witness the ongoing generosity of volunteers and the way that the American public steps up to donate to help meet the emergency needs of those most vulnerable in this country. From wildfires in the west year-after-year, to hurricanes in the south, to horrific mass casualty events, we continue to be able to support those in need because of the power of our volunteers — many of whom are young people.
I see this same generous spirit when it comes to the millions of blood donors who open their veins to give a pint of blood to save the life of someone they will never know. I see it in the bystander who spots a stranger in distress and springs into action to help by administering first aid or CPR. When someone who needs lifesaving care is in front of us Americans just help.
Our country is a place full of generous, caring, and selfless humanitarians. In fact, America is home to more nonprofits than any other country, with more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Plus, nearly 63 million people volunteer every year, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. They are at work every day in our communities — whether at the local food bank, community center, house of worship, library, hospital, or homeless shelter. In fact, the World Giving Index ranked the United States as the world’s most generous country.
This is the America I see — people who know how good it feels to lift people up and to bring help and hope to those in need, rather than focusing on our differences. By taking time to reach out to provide help and understanding, we can feel much better about ourselves and our fellow Americans. And, in turn, this all helps to bring us closer together as a community and as a country.
I am so proud of what nonprofits have accomplished to help those most vulnerable. But, there is still more work to be done. With the real effects of climate change and consequent disasters becoming more frequent, it is apparent that the ways of yesterday will not be the ones that enable us to meet the needs of the future.
By coming together, adapting, and putting a stronger focus on innovation and inclusivity, I am optimistic that we can make an even greater impact and elevate the most vulnerable among us. Together we can do this.