I have noticed that tragedy often brings out the best in us—not in everyone, but a huge majority. There is something about authentic compassion in us that responds instinctively to reach out to someone in danger. When it is the catastrophe of a natural disaster, as in Haiti, millions of people all over the world respond. Our genuine humanity empathizes.

When a house burned down in our neighborhood, we all pitched in to help the family. We came together. We forgot our petty individual squabbles. The cranky old man in the big house (who seemed to be at war with all kids and dogs) came out with coffee and hot chocolate and offered a spare room if someone needed a place to sleep. I may be a cock-eyed optimist but I believe there is authentic goodness in most of us. It may be hidden and hard to find, but it is there. I see it often, not only in times of great tragedy like Haiti but in countless small ways. Someone helps me lift my carry-on suitcase to the overhead bin. I accidentally spill coins on the floor at the grocery checkout stand. Four people bend down to help me pick them up.

In hundreds of spontaneous acts of simple kindness genuine authenticity is expressed. There is no expectation of personal gain. We do it without thinking. Remember how many times you have responded, or seen someone, stop to help a person who has fallen down; or a dog or cat caught in a precarious situation or picked up trash from a littered beach or campsite.

These spontaneous acts of simple human kindness may be true expressions of our authenticity, when we just reach out and lend a hand. The world is reaching out to the suffering in Haiti. Perhaps this is how we are becoming more authentic. We respond from our hearts with compassion.