Saturday night, Maya and I got all dressed up for the American Red Cross Ball in Raleigh.

I was premiering a short documentary that would serve as the motivational piece to urge local companies and individuals to donate to the Red Cross mission.

This is a very typical job for me – creating impact videos for nonprofits’ fundraising events. But this one was a little more personal and hit a little closer to home.

Last year, I got to follow the American Red Cross during one of the most devastating times in North Carolina history — the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

I grew up in eastern North Carolina and have lost several homes in hurricanes.

So when Hurricane Florence came through, and I was safe in Durham, I decided to take action and help my people where I could. I set up a fund and raised $3000 in a few days to help locals that had lost their homes and belongings.

As a filmmaker, I knew I wanted to document these events and tell the stories of some of the people in the affected areas. But alone, I might not have had the impact that I thought these stories deserved, so I reached out to the Red Cross and told them my idea.

I wanted to follow their efforts, alongside my own, and examine the response between humans during times of distress and destruction.

As a filmmaker, I spend my days seeking out the heart in stories. Heart doesn’t exist in data and statistics. You find it in the people.

I did not have a problem finding the heart in this story. It was in every person running around frantically on a walkie-talkie, every person driving trucks and mobile-kitchens for miles across the state, and every person on their fourteenth hour volunteering that still had a smile on their face.

It takes that heart to keep an organization of this magnitude going.

Hell, it takes that heart to keep all of us going.

Another thing that keeps us going, and is uniquely human, is how we connect through sharing our stories.

No other species has the ability to connect their brains and hearts through storytelling. So we have to keep telling those stories to help create the change we want to see in the world.

That was my goal with this story.

Instead of just touting the statistics of how many meals and relief items were sent, I wanted to tell the story of the effect on the community. I saw it first hand.

People that had to be rescued from their houses by boats, people that had all their belongings ruined and ripped from their homes, and people that had no homes to even come back to were taken in, given food and shelter, and given love.

There was no bickering because of different ideologies. There was no hate.

There was love, togetherness, and humanity.

That because when we are face to face with other humans, and we hear their stories, it’s exponentially easier for us to empathize with them and see that we are more connected than divided.

So that’s my mission — with this film and with any other — to keep telling those stories so we can keep having those conversations and moving towards progress.

The response to the video was resounding. Host Jay Izso was incredibly kind with his words and it was clear in that moment, the people in attendance shared my mission.

The theme of the Red Cross Ball this year was “Weathering the Storms Together.”

It’s true. This is how we have to get through life’s hard times. Typically, people don’t struggle to do this and you see them come together in a time like the aftermath of a hurricane.

What I want is for us to find that ability even when we aren’t in dire times.

Rain Bennett is a two time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, writer, and competitive storyteller with over a decade of experience producing documentary films that focus on health and wellness. With his company Six Second Stories, he takes the knowledge and skills learned from “indie” filmmaking and uses them to help nonprofits and purpose-driven companies use short form video storytelling in their marketing strategies to deepen their impact on communities and the world. Bennett has been featured in publications like Men’s Health and Sports Business Global, has contributed to Huffington Post Breaking Muscle, and Chapelboro, and hosts a podcast called The Storytelling Lab, where he breaks down the art and science of storytelling. His mission is simple: to make the world happier and healthier by sharing stories of change.