Following the Good Samaritan’s example means broadening your notion of neighbor beyond shared geography and backgrounds. You are called to show compassion to all people, regardless of religion, class, or difference—not just survivors you might easily identify with or relate to.
Reach out to help people living with major challenges: those in poverty, the medically fragile, the elderly, immigrants. For example, some immigrants and refugees may live in fear of deportation, and as a result, they might not ask for the help they need to rebound. Elderly people in high crime areas live in fear of being harmed and may not open their doors to people they don’t know, even if those people are trying to help them survive. People living in poverty may not have the resources to evacuate and get to safety when that means paying for extra gas and a hotel.
Know how to love your neighbor
Empathize. To love your neighbor in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, start by empathizing with what they are going through. When the Samaritan saw the injured man beaten by robbers, he connected with the man’s suffering. It’s common for disaster survivors to feel alone or isolated—like no one else understands their experience. Create space for them to lament what they have gone through. Be careful not to push them to process what they’ve experienced; that’s more helpful later in the recovery process. Avoid phrases like “I know what it’s like.” Instead, be patient, listen, and help normalize what they are feeling and thinking. Another way you can empathize with survivors is through prayer. As people of faith, we are called to pray for others, especially for those in need, and prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can help.
Meet basic needs. The Good Samaritan took care of the man’s most immediate physical needs by bandaging his wounds, helping him to an inn, and taking care of him through the night. Focus on attending to survivors’ most basic needs, like injuries, transportation, shelter, and safety. Don’t assume you know the best way to help or what your neighbor needs. Instead, ask how you can help and what your neighbor’s most immediate and tangible needs are—then take steps to try and help meet those needs. By providing for survivors’ basics needs, you are also addressing spiritual and emotional issues, too. Remember that aid happens where needs meet resources. If your help is going to make a positive difference, it needs to match up with what the actual needs on the ground are right now and also with what those needs might be later.