Everyone experiences crises differently. Whether a natural disaster or a pandemic, no two people respond to the same circumstances in the same way. That said, you’ll almost always see the people in communities banding together and trying to make the best of a tough situation. Being in the disaster restoration business myself, I can certainly attest to that.

Of course, we’ve all seen the first responders who run in when others are running out. They step up, often going above and beyond the call — they are true heroes. But I’ve also witnessed countless instances of neighbors helping neighbors after a natural disaster. People show up, lend a helping hand and try to make progress. Together.

Working for a Greater Good

In traveling around the world and seeing the work first responders do daily, I remain in awe of the bond of their friendship, loyalty, camaraderie. They operate much like a family. Not only do they spend most of their lives together, but they also experience some genuinely harrowing situations together. It creates a deep bond that helps them do their jobs and keep us safe.

When in a rescue situation, these people have each other’s backs. Even after a response, they show up for one another, and their organizations provide resources for first responders to work through the emotions and feelings that come from traumatic situations. Some first responders call this an “adrenaline dump.”

This COVID-19 pandemic is a little bit different. But we would all do well to take a page from these first responders in how we view the situation and forge ahead. It’s time to dig deep and get back to basics by checking on the people around us and showing gratitude. For instance, our company recently delivered thousands of lunches to police, fire and EMT departments across the country to show appreciation and recognize the importance of their heroic actions.

This is just one example of how businesses can give back to their communities. There are plenty of ways businesses and organizations can show they care and perform acts of kindness. It shows customers where your heart is — and shows your employees the same thing. More than that, businesses that give back see stronger employee retention and more passionate employees.

How to Bring Communities Together

How exactly can communities come together and buoy each other during a crisis? Here are a few things I’ve witnessed about the human spirit and people’s resiliency when times are hard:

1. Inspire others with larger gestures.

During times of uncertainty, acts of kindness have a way of building a sense of community and creating a chain of giving. Show your support by providing food to your local first responders or donating to an organization directly involved with COVID-19 relief.

One hotel owner offered free accommodations for NHS workers during the pandemic, while communities all over Massachusetts have been organizing mutual aid groups where neighbors help neighbors, delivering food, offering child care and even buying food vouchers from local businesses. Even though times are tough, you can still support people!

2. Don’t forget about smaller acts of kindness.

Part of our company culture focuses on the importance of always doing the right thing. Because this is such a challenging time for everybody, we need to give each other some grace and look for ways to create more positivity in the world.

The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact. Simply asking someone how he or she is doing can brighten that person’s day — and just like the large gestures I mentioned before, they can create a chain of kindness. Saying “good morning” to the person next to you, offering to pick up groceries for a neighbor or paying for a stranger’s coffee can all have the same impact and create a sense of connectedness with the people around you.

It’s not about the act itself — it’s about the intent. So many small gestures enable you to make a huge difference. As a business, these gestures might look like offering anxiety reduction sessions to employees or extra days off here and there.

3. Stay the course. Things will bounce back.

It’s always darkest before the dawn. When things look almost insurmountable, trust that the circumstances will turn around — you just need to stay the course.

Back in 2018, a devastating fire threatened the Hale Library at Kansas State University. First responders were able to save the building, but millions of books were damaged. BELFOR was able to restore many of those books, and the building itself was eventually rebuilt. With help from others, the community bounced back — and the library became a place for students to congregate again. It just took time.

Think about ways you can make a difference to the communities most impacted by this tragedy. For example, Audible offered free access to children’s educational materials and other books to keep kids learning as schools went into lockdowns for months.

People will always find ways to make a difference. They will also find ways to maintain their resilience. You need only look around to see it happening everywhere, every day. It’s incredible how people are able to respond to change, and we can all find a lot of hope in that.