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In our opinion: Stop what you’re doing — your neighbor needs you today

A large tree that was cut into pieces after being felled by high winds near 1700 East and Yale Avenue in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Today is as important as any in recent memory for Utahns to make good on their distinction of being the most volunteering population in the country.

Neighbors need their neighbors, parents need their children and the unassociated in the community need the loving touch of a stranger. As much as we enjoy sharing a daily dose of opinion for our readers, we’d prefer you to stop reading now and knock on the door of someone who needs your help.

Coming together to lift another has always been a hallmark of the Utah way, and that’s what the state needs today.

At least 170,000 residents in northern Utah were left without power on Tuesday as massive winds swept through the state. Trees toppled on houses, cars and roads. Shingles disappeared. Further south, fires raged, continuing to threaten hundreds of homes.

Work began almost immediately after the damage was done as residents popped out of their homes with the characteristic can-do attitude of those in the Beehive State. Those with chainsaws helped city crews by cutting up large trunks, and emergency response teams traversed the streets. But it will take some time to see that everyone has the help they need, that yards are cleared and evacuees have a place to stay. To do that requires a certain proactivity and vigilance that transcends local leaders giving orders.

Ask yourself what you can do to share your talents and resources to lift another today, and then go do it. Nature’s destruction is no match for an army of selfless volunteers.

It’s a principle ingrained in the state’s foundation.

An early winter beset the ill-fated Martin handcart company in 1856, trapping them on the plains of Wyoming. Miles away in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young received a report of the struggling band of travelers. In an address to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he skipped the oratory of a preacher and laid bare the situation:

“Between five and six hundred men, women, and children, worn by drawing handcarts through the snow and mud; fainting by the wayside; falling, chilled by the cold; children crying, their limbs stiffened by cold; their feet bleeding and some of them bare to snow and frost.”

This was his message to the congregants: “Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts … and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them.” Without waiting a day, he sent 40 young men, 65 teams of mules and horses and wagons loaded with 24,000 pounds of flour to reach the stranded parties.

That’s an attitude that thankfully persists today. At its core, it acknowledges that differences of thought, religion or background mean nothing when another human needs assistance.

We are encouraged by those who so freely give of their resources. It’s in the worst of times that the best of humanity often shines. Let today and its ensuing effort be one of those moments.