Smoke veiled the foothills, shrouded the trees in a gray-brown haze. The typically lush hues of the Northwest became muted and dull; the horizon, a faint outline. The gritty taste of campfire lingered in throats and mouths for days, for weeks. It hurt to swallow. Eyes red and teary. We endured it all knowing the cause – rampant forest fires hundreds of miles away. We endured it because no matter what discomfort was experienced, it was minor compared to the devastation of wilderness and homes and lives.

Disaster from so far away can have such a profound effect so close to home. Hurricanes, floods, mass shootings, civil unrest are all visceral, from no matter where they happen or to whom. Which is exactly as it should be. The world has become too small, too connected not to care what happens elsewhere – good or bad.

But I feel at a loss about the best way to help. Meager donations and well-wishes never seem to be enough. It’s not realistic to think one could travel to every disaster site and lend a hand in the recovery, to fight every fire. There are people who attempt to do that, only to find they do more harm than good by getting in the way or tapping already limited resources. And tweeting your “thoughts and prayers”? Well, take a moment to watch this video…

I don’t know. Whatever I think to do never seems to be enough. But, I know, even a little matters, like sending out ripples across a great lake. So, perhaps, acting locally is the answer. Or at least, a good place to start.

This proves to be a no-brainer. There are so many ways to contribute through volunteering within your community: animal shelters; food banks and kitchens; retirement homes. And if you want to think more globally, there’s Habitat for Humanity and, of course, the American Red Cross.

Studies show that 1 in 5 people suffer from depression and/or anxiety. I’m surprised the numbers aren’t higher. A local independent station here in Seattle regularly has a Mental Health Awareness Day, run on the adage: You Are Not Alone. I know my wife and I are grateful everyday for the amazing community of neighbors we have. We know we are not alone. I want to send out ripples that say just that – you are not alone! I want to shout it to the world!

Hmm…I wonder if there’s an app for that.