Maintain your faith in humanity

In the middle of a health crisis, it is only natural to be outraged by reports of people stealing masks or breaking lockdown rules — and to deplore human fallibility. But it is important to remember that times of crisis can also bring out the best in people and prompt acts of true kindness and generosity.

A study of recent major catastrophes, both natural (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.) and man-made (terrorist attacks, industrial accidents, etc.), showed that they often lead to selfless and courageous behavior. Hurricane Katrina left thousands without any belongings, electricity, or cash. A bank in Mississippi literally laundered and ironed bills it had gathered up in the muddy remains of their branches and local safes.

They then handed them out in return for a name and social security number. At that point, few people had proper proof of ID. In all, the bank distributed $42 million to anyone who came to them, whether a customer or not. Faith paid off, in every sense of the word.

Locals were able to buy essentials and put the money back into the local economy. Many people who weren’t customers before switched to the bank. A year after the hurricane, deposits at the bank had increased by $1.5 billion. A good deed benefits everyone. Have faith in humanity, and in the act of giving.

 

To go further: “How Bad Times Bring Out the Best in People“, Bill Taylor, (Harvard Business Review, 20 March 2020).