As we sift through the emotional and physical rubble from the Attack on America and attempt to work through our grief, it is important that we remain strong. Given the magnitude of the atrocity, however, it would be quite natural for us to become disillusioned, perhaps even misanthropic after such overwhelming evil was unleashed upon us. Is the inevitable outcome from this tragedy that we lose faith in man’s humanity toward fellow man?
To the contrary, psychologists may have a leg up when it comes to these sorts of matters. After all, isn’t it customary for psychologists to remind their patients at times of great life stress that, in every crisis exists an opportunity. The current crisis has yielded at least two bright spots/opportunities in what is otherwise a monumentally abhorrent and horrifying situation. One flicker of brightness can be seen in the emergence of a pervasive kind of altruism coupled with a dose of patriotism among people that hasn’t existed in this country since World War II. A second ray of hope is seen in the massive outpouring of charitable acts by Americans of every stripe. These behaviors and feelings have been sorely missed for many years here in this country. It is truly a testament to people’s benevolence that so many have volunteered their sweat, their time, their money, and even their blood to assist those in need. This is the antithesis of and very possibly an antidote to the abomination that was rained down upon us by a relative handful of humanity’s fanatical character disorders.
It is significant to recognize that psychologists have always been among the first to rise to duty when tragedy strikes. The current crisis has been no exception. Teams of psychologist volunteers in affiliation with the American Red Cross have been deployed, as is customary in these situations, to schools, hospitals, churches, and government agencies to administer to the great numbers of people who have been injured by the catastrophe. The interventions provided by this disaster response network, along with tens of thousands of more informal interventions that psychologists provide to victims of tragedy are vital to the functioning of our culture.
One has to simply pick up the daily newspaper in any city or burg to be aware of the huge contribution psychologists make to the well-being of this country’s social functioning. Article after article recount the various and sundry ways that psychologists are making a difference in the current struggle. While this phenomenon is most understandable because we are, in fact, a discipline comprised of helping professionals, it is gratifying to learn of these actions as they take place. This also underscores the fact that we are also a profession of giving professionals who regularly provide pro bono services to disadvantaged populations and those in need, oftentimes at the drop of a hat.
Professional development directors consulting with non-profit organizations frequently urge those organizations to work toward building greater awareness and increased appreciation for the importance of philanthropy among potential donors. They treat this as a kind of evolutionary process, educating contributors and incrementally moving them toward greater eleemosynary behavior. In fundraising parlance this is called, creating a culture of giving.
It is clear that psychology already has a well established infrastructure of giving in place. We are well equipped to deliver these services and have a long history of doing so for the purpose of improving others’ worlds. Suffice it to say that the fundamentals are strong for a thriving Culture of Giving to expand among psychologists. But more about this later. At this moment, I am prouder than ever to be a member of a profession that does so much for others, especially when the chips are down. Thanks are due to all of you.