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Louis DeBroux / Mar. 25, 2020

American Spirit Shines Amid Coronavirus Crisis

During a time of immense hardship, heartwarming stories of help abound.

The American people are, in the words of President Donald Trump, “one big beautiful American family.” How true that is. Like family we get along with some more than others. We disagree on things, often loudly and vehemently. We argue and fight, laugh, cry, and love.

Yet no family in the world sets aside differences and strengthens each other in times of crisis more than the American people. Whether it be the aftermath of the radical Islamist terrorist attacks of 9/11, the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a massive outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest, or flooding following Hurricane Katrina, we come together to rescue our neighbor, comfort them, and help them put their lives back together.

And we do it spontaneously, without command or instruction. We see a need, and we rise to meet it; family helping family, neighbor helping neighbor. It is the epitome of the American spirit, a spirit unlike anywhere else in the world.

We saw it with the Cajun Navy, an ad-hoc group of volunteers who hitched their boats to their trucks and drove toward Hurricane Katrina as it bore down on Louisiana. These heroes saved thousands of lives, plucking them from the raging waters that engulfed their homes. These same volunteers rescued thousands more following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Florence, and Michael.

The COVID-19 coronavirus presents a much different danger, but a more formidable one. More lives are at risk. And once we are past the danger, there will be time to go back and review what could have been done better and where we can be better prepared next time. But despite the inevitable stumbles and bureaucratic hurdles, no other nation was more prepared than the U.S. to deal with this crisis.

And once again, in the face of danger and national crisis, the American people instinctively look for ways to help their neighbors; not only meeting their basic needs, but lifting their spirits and giving them hope.

Many of the much-maligned corporations voluntarily and proactively stepped up to help their employees, with Walmart and other large companies announcing they would give two weeks of paid leave to any employee who is sick or taking care of a sick family member.

Other businesses took a more entrepreneurial approach. Shine Distillery and Grill in Portland, Oregon, is converting its alcohol waste byproduct into a hand sanitizer and giving it away.

Helping relieve anxiety and stress, the Metropolitan Opera began streaming nightly performances for free for quarantined fans. The video-communications firm Zoom is offering free streaming of religious services. And as millions of children are now stuck at home, doing school remotely, Charter Communications announced free broadband for two months to homes with students.

Millions more individual Americans are seeking opportunities to aid those in need.

NBA rookie and former Duke phenom Zion Williamson announced he will pay the salaries of the workers of the Smoothie King Center (New Orleans Pelicans’ arena) who found themselves out of work when the NBA canceled its season. And Charlotte Hornets Sports and Entertainment, along with Hornets players, created a fund to provide financial aid to its 500 part-time employees no longer working after the season abruptly ended.

In Houston, after Harris County announced a mandatory shutdown of all bars and nightclubs, a patron left a $9,400 tip at Irma’s Southwest Restaurant with a note on the receipt that read simply, “Hold tip to pay you guys over the next few weeks.” And while few Americans have that kind of money to drop as a tip, many are ordering take-out from local restaurants to help them stay afloat.

In Walnut Creek, California, a dentist is offering free emergency dental services at home to ease crowding in hospital emergency rooms. Around the country, private citizens are tutoring children for free. Others are using the Nextdoor app to coordinate food, medicine, and aid for the vulnerable.

In Smithfield, North Carolina, Nathan Sheppard played guitar on Facebook Live and asked for donations. He raised $235 and gave it to Jessica Young, a local waitress and single mother of three who is awaiting kidney and pancreas transplants. Churches across the country are mobilizing to respond to the increased needs.

These seemingly random and sometimes coordinated acts of kindness and generosity are occurring countless times each day across America. The vast majority will never make the news or be applauded. Yet they go on, day after day, blessing the lives of those who receive them.

There are some in the media, and some driven by politics, who portray America as having Third World healthcare and greedy, self-interested people who care nothing for the suffering of others. They demand more government, claiming only government can save us (when they are not blaming government for our predicament, that is).

But these critics are cynical and selfish in their motivations, and to be dismissed, or rebuked.

America is the greatest, most compassionate, most generous, most entrepreneurial, most resilient nation on the face of the Earth. If you doubt that, simply ask yourself one question: In the current pandemic, where else would you rather be?

(Correction: Hurricane Katrina was in 2005, not 2016 as implied by in the original. Given that the Cajun Navy operated during numerous hurricanes, we’ve removed the year.)

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