Yesterday marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, and like many people, I found myself reliving the horrific events of that terrifying day. Even after over a decade, the raw emotions resurfaced with every image and news clip that replayed the mass destruction and loss of over 3,000 lives, and I found myself dissolving in tears a number of times, even though I swore I wouldn’t this year. It was overwhelming to remember, but it remains impossible to forget.
Along with the tragic stories, there were stories of remarkable heroism and simple acts of kindness that provided some light in the midst of the darkness. The first responders who rushed into the burning buildings when everyone else was racing to escape them, the passengers on the four flights who valiantly fought back when the hijackers hatched their diabolical plan, the medical personnel who treated the wounded, the citizens of New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania who provided whatever aid that they could to the rescuers and wounded, and the rest of the country who sent aid to the devastated areas and reached out to wrap their arms, literally and figuratively, around those directly impacted and each other were but a few of the countless examples that had all of us clinging to hope when we desperately needed it. Ordinary people became heroes on that day, and we were united as a nation in way that I had never witnessed during my lifetime.
On September 12, we woke up to a new world, and for a time, a new ‘normal’ of love, kindness, and compassion emerged to help us through the grief and the fear. Then, the more familiar threats and enemies of complacency, hatred, discrimination, indifference, etc. seeped back into our lives, as it tends to do when time passes. I am not implying that all of the goodness and kindness that rose from the rubble of 9/11 was in vain or has ceased to exist, but yesterday, I found myself longing for the unified and kind spirit that swept through our nation thirteen years ago. It led me to reflect on the need for all of us to be heroes, not just during the aftermath of a tragedy, but in the ordinary days of our lives.
A hero has many definitions, but I am drawn to the one offered by Maya Angelou, because it reminds us that we all have the power and ability to be a hero. Most of us will never be in the position to save someone’s life or sacrifice our own life to help someone else, but all of us are in the position to help make at least one other person’s life better, even in a small way, every single day. We just have to look for opportunities to do so, then act accordingly. There are limitless ways to be kind and compassionate, and there is no such thing as an act of kindness that is too small.
So, every day, do something, anything, to make another living being’s existence in this world all the better with your words and/or actions. Tell someone you love them. Say your sorry and really mean it. Adopt an animal who needs a forever home. Volunteer at your child’s school. Visit someone who is lonely and in need of companionship. Send someone flowers for no particular reason or occasion. Smile at everyone you meet. Give friends, family members, and strangers alike genuine compliments. The list goes on and on, but you get the gist of this.
While 9/11 is now thirteen years in our rearview mirror, when we look ahead, let us not forget the heroes of that day and the lives lost. In their memory and honor, let us all be heroes in our own lives and the lives of others and transform the world with one act of kindness at a time.
Just one thing each day . . .