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When terrorists flew into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon back in 2001, I watched with horror along with my children. The entire United States, and many around the world, were in shock. But as reports were still streaming in, I gathered my children together and gave them some advice. “A terrible thing has happened,” I said. “But I want you to watch for the heroes. There will always be heroes.” And there are. But I’d like to add to that advice today.

Just this year it seems the earth has filled with tragedy, panic, and confusion, almost as never before. We’ve seen innocent people gunned down, the ravages of nature ripping lives away, and many left homeless and helpless. And yes, there will always be bystanders who suddenly fill with courage and heroism, who step up and rescue. There will be first responders who risk their lives to save others’. Heroes seem to abound when there’s an emergency.

But instead of just watching for such heroes and being grateful for the humanity that binds us all together, today I would advise my children to be those heroes. Instead of simply watching the news, shaking our heads, and saying, “I feel so sorry for those poor people,” let’s take action. Let’s show that sympathy.

I’m not advocating that you go to the disaster sites—that can often pose additional problems unless you’re invited. (But if coordinators of disaster relief invite you, by all means bring tools and supplies, and help out. We’ve seen many fly in to these areas, or haul a boat to Texas from Idaho or Wyoming, as so many generous souls did for the flood victims in Texas.)   Or, if you already live close enough, you can open your doors to those whose homes have been swept away or burned to the ground. You can join with friends to gather food or blankets, start a clothing drive, or help with turning our ward buildings into shelters.

But most of us can’t help face-to-face, so how can we be those heroes? We can donate to LDS Charities, where we know 100% of the funds will go directly to the project. Unlike so many charities whose funds are divvied up to pay for overhead costs and personnel, our church’s Humanitarian Services gives every dime you donate to the people who actually need it. Here’s how you can help right this minute.

First, go online and see if has a way you can get involved. It will list specific needs right in your own neighborhood.

Second, donate funds through your local ward or branch, by filling out a tithing slip and indicating the amount you wish to donate on the “Humanitarian Aid” line.

Third, if you’d rather mail in a check, send it to Humanitarian Services c/o LDS Philanthropies, 1450 N. University Ave., Provo, UT 84604

Fourth, donate online at where you’ll see another reminder that 100% of these funds are used to help people in need. You can also call Humanitarian Services at 801-240-1201.

Yes, it restores our faith in humanity as we watch amazing examples of selfless giving and heartfelt love when tragedy strikes. But let’s not leave it to someone else. Just as we shouldn’t pray for God to “help the poor and needy” without any involvement or effort on our own part, let’s not just watch with admiration as somebody else steps up. Let us be those who lead the way.

Hilton’s new LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves in Stake Public Affairs.