The latest testimony to the caring nature of our nation’s residents came in the aftermath of a gunman’s assault in Las Vegas. After more than 500 were injured at an outdoor concert Sunday, blood donors were waiting in lines several blocks long.

That response helped prevent the death toll from becoming even worse than it already has.

Meanwhile, human suffering continues in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico following major hurricanes. We tend to overlook the tragedies in Mexico as the result of two earthquakes and yet another hurricane. Recovery from such natural disasters does not happen overnight, so the initial outpouring of relief must be followed up in the months ahead.

People who want to help don’t have to look very far to find a need.

That desire to assist others who are suffering seems to be ingrained in our culture, and we are blessed for that. We see it every time something disastrous happens. Entertainment, sports and business celebrities step forward with seven-figure gifts. Others who might live paycheck-to-paycheck use their cell phones to send $10 to the Red Cross, or as happened in Las Vegas, line up to donate a pint of blood.

The benevolent response is immediate, and sometimes overwhelming.

Alas, the national attention span is short. The shock of disasters wears off, and our focus — not to mention the news coverage — moves on to something new. We lose track of what is happening afterwards, and what else needs to be done to restore lives to normal. Too often, what had been “normal” cannot be restored, and the task becomes helping people adapt to what will necessarily become a new “normal.”

Those most seriously affected by the hurricanes will need new housing, new jobs, and new ways of life. Some will be forced to relocate to areas that weren’t so severely damaged.

Likewise, those affected by the gunman will be recovering physically and emotionally, perhaps enduring long stretches of surgical procedures and therapy.

Their endurance and patience have already been tested, but just because the storms have passed and the gunfire has ended doesn’t mean it’s all over. Recovery is a long-term process, and so too is the need for caring people to respond.

Consider the blood donors. Early this week, we read the news that the number of volunteers at Las Vegas blood draws was so large, they began making appointments so donors wouldn’t be forced to wait in line — and those appointments were for some time next week. What a wonderful problem for a blood bank to have.

But donating blood is not like donating dollars. Dollars are certainly important, because money doesn’t spoil. Blood is different. As irreplaceable as blood is in the operating room, the gift made by a blood donor is quite perishable. According to United Blood Services, which serves this area with blood and blood products, red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days, and platelets just five days, so they must be constantly replenished.

The need for blood for people facing life-and-death situations is constant. United Blood Services is conducting six blood drives in Brown County this month, including two held in Brownwood and Bangs on Thursday. Six more are planned in November and December. See the list at www.bloodhero.com.

We don’t have to wait for a disaster to help people who are suffering. The need is ongoing, especially for things government cannot provide.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at news@brownwoodbulletin.com.