“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” ~Mr. Rogers
My heart falls back on those words of Mr. Rogers in times of tragedy and they, indeed, shine a light on kindness in the world. For the past week, I have battled the normalcy of my own day-to-day life (go to work, come home, make dinner, enjoy family time) with the horrors and heartbreak for the families of the Ukraine whose lives have been uprooted overnight.
In the brief transition between the Olympic celebrations and the Russian invasion of the Ukraine (which has quickly led to an undeclared war and humanitarian crisis), I started following the posts of Maksim (Maks) Chmerkovskiy, the “Dancing with the Stars” Ukrainian dancer who was living in his homeland filming a spin-off of this popular dance show. At the time, he had 720,000 Instagram followers, but his following quickly grew as he started sharing his own videos from his experience. His posts are raw, in-the-moment reflections, of what he has seen, heard, and felt in his time in Ukraine during this crisis. As I sit half a world away in opulent comfort, I find myself transfixed by the Ukrainian reality.
I am bewildered.
I am furious.
I am devastated.
It’s extremely challenging to focus on kindness when emotions rage. Your body shifts into high alert, your fight-flight-or-freeze responses kick into gear, and your only goal is survival. And yet, there are countless stories of kindness emerging from this despondency. Everyday people, like you and me, are stepping up to the plate to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Today, I am thankful to live in a country where the battle for basic freedom has already been fought. I can walk in public wearing whatever clothes I choose. I can vote in elections as a woman. I can choose my spouse and have as many children as I desire. I can hold a job. Earn an advanced degree. Go out to eat in a restaurant and travel on vacation.
I can also share my thoughts and opinions with the world without fear of imprisonment for using specific words or phrases.
I am grateful to those who fought the battles before me so that I might be free.
Below are just a few of the many acts of kindness I have heard about this past week. I wanted to spotlight them here on my blog so that years from now when the history books recount how this war began, there might be a mention of the kindness that was also present for those who needed it most.
- Neighboring countries, such as Poland, Hungary, and Moldova, have opened their borders without restriction to Ukranian refugees. They have also provided transportation, medical care, shelters, food, clothing, and legal services for those fleeing Ukraine. Additional countries, like Germany, have offered the same kindness as refugees move on throughout Europe.
- Citizens in these countries have met Ukranians at the border, offering transportation and lodging in their own homes, for short and long-term stays. Many show up at train stations holding cardboard signs with hand-drawn images and personal messages, offering compassion and care.
- People around the world have been purchasing AirB&B rentals with Ukrainian hosts, with notes that they aren’t staying there, but wanted to donate money directly to them. These funds are immediately transfered into hosts’ accounts (without delay or proof-of-stay). In addition, AirB&B has provided free temporary housing for up to 100,000 Ukranian refugees.
- Polish mothers left baby strollers at train stations so the mothers of the Ukraine have something to put their babies in when they arrive.
There have also been kind acts shown by those who hold powerful positions:
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of the Ukraine, chose to stay with his people to fight for freedom rather than use his power and prestige to flee the nation, less than three years after being sworn into office.
- Bethany Frankel, CEO and founder of the Skinny Girl brand (who we watched on Shark Tank pitch her passion for additional investors), immediately directed her BStrong mission to provide basic essentials to Ukranian refugees as soon as they crossed the border into other countries.
- Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, answered a Twitter plea from the Vice Prime Minister of the Ukraine to provide access to Starlink stations for internet access by Ukranians (which he provided in less than 12 hours).
Here in the U.S., there are countless organizations to which you can donate or offer support for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, should you be led to scatter kindness in that way. In the coming months and years, I would anticipate an increase of Ukrainian refugees finding safe passage to our country, looking to settle within our borders as they try to restart a life torn apart by the ravages of war.
Continue to be kind.
Continue to show the good in the world.