There’s always a silver lining in any cloud, and this week’s crippling snowstorm was no exception. In the midst of car accidents, paralyzing traffic gridlock, and power outages, Tar Heels stepped forward in droves to help their neighbors.
With thousands of drivers trapped on icy roads, North Carolinians did not hesitate to extend a hand to their fellow citizens. A Chapel Hill bookstore provided shelter and warm socks for three dozen stranded drivers. Business owners let people sleep in the warmth of their stores. People shoveled their neighbors’ driveways. One young woman posted a note to 10,000 strangers on Reddit with the title “WARM LIVING ROOM AVAILABLE”:
I have already seen several people (including families with young children) abandoning their cars and attempting to walk someplace for shelter. If you are near the downtown Raleigh area/Cameron Village (specifically Oberlin Court) and need some warm coffee, warm clothes, or just someplace to wait out the storm, my living room is open and the fridge is stocked with beer. Feel free to PM me or comment on here, the invitation is open.
I personally witnessed dozens of people helping to push cars that got stuck at a steep intersection in front of my apartment. Complete strangers walked up to car windows and asked, “Need help?” Shoulder to shoulder with people they had never seen or spoken to, they pushed vehicle after vehicle over the snowy crest of the hill.
People often forget that government is only the uppermost layer of political society. It provides things that ordinary people working together cannot provide: national defense, public safety, a system for enforcing laws and contracts, and so on. But a much more fundamental part of democracy is civil society, a complex web of social connections that achieves far more good than government ever can. Family members, friends, and neighbors help each other not because they are forced to, but because they want to.
Watching the Good Samaritans all around Raleigh this week, I was very proud to be a North Carolinian.