What Happens to Humanity When Disaster Strikes?
Do disasters bring out the best or the worst in humanity?
The other day I overheard someone commenting on the many instances of people taking advantage of others during dire situations. They went on to say that tragedies only bring out the worst in people.
That stopped me in my tracks because the way I see it, tragic situations overwhelmingly bring out the best in people. These events ignite and amplify our instinct to ensure survival of life.
Hurricanes. Floods. Wildfires. Attacks.
Whether they are natural disasters or human-made, we see them all as tragedies.
They create situations in which confusion, separation, chaos, fear, anger, and despair swiftly engulf one’s being physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Yet, time after time, in the wake of each occurrence, overwhelming acts of kindness emerge, proving the generosity, love and strength humans are capable of.
Who sees the images or hears the harrowing stories and does not feel the tug at their heart to do something?
Especially at times like these, humanity, in all of its beautiful, complicated, muddled intricacies, remembers its true essence: to protect and love one another.
“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.”
~ Paulo Coelho
Right on, Paulo! Have we not seen this countless times in the recent past?
Following any disaster around the world there have been selfless acts of bravery, compassion and generosity. To name a few:
- Twenty people linking arms to rescue one elderly man from being swept away in the current of Hurricane Harvey floodwaters
- Children setting up lemonade stands to raise money for Harvey flood victims
- Lines of personal boats being driven in to help with rescue efforts in Houston
- Monetary donations to help supply food, water, first aid, clothing, bedding in Texas
- Gatherings in support of inclusivity, acceptance and respect for all, spurred by events in Charlottesville
Wow! How many of those are on your everyday to-do list, huh?
Kind of makes you wonder…
Where does this compulsion to reveal our most brilliant selves come from?
Well, deep down, contrary to what we may usually see, the reality is that we are quite altruistic.
Merriam-Webster defines altruism as:
- unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others
- behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species
We humans are here today in large part due to the fact that throughout the millennia, we have been devoted to the welfare of others for the benefit of our species. We have nurtured relationships and looked out for one another. See, fundamentally we are social creatures. We have survived and evolved thus far through the protection and charity of our group. Awesome teamwork!
In today’s world we continue to be social creatures who crave that human connection. In times of emotional or physical stress, many of us experience how the soothing words or gentle touch from our support system means the difference between giving up or hanging on; between despair or hope. The same craving occurs in times of joy and celebrations; we call up our friends, share on social media, host a gathering, etc. Either way, we reach out, connect and interact!
In her book A Paradise Built in Hell, author Rebecca Solnit has this to say regarding the surge in altruism during disasters:
“…it also pulls people away from a lot of trivial anxieties and past and future concerns and gratuitous preoccupations that we have, and refocuses us in a very intense way… In some ways, people behave better than in ordinary life and in some disasters people find [out about] the meaningful role of deep social connections and see their absence in everyday life.”
And that, my friend, is what it is really all about.
During large-scale disasters we find ourselves reaching out, connecting and interacting, almost without thinking.
Our souls are touched and we remember that we are one; we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
This Oneness, at its foundational level as described by Sheila Applegate, is an “energy that connects all things, runs through all things and is all things.”
We see the situations playing out in real-time, and in our Oneness we remember that we are all connected and we have the power to help our group survive.
Differences fall aside. Borders fall aside.
What matters is that we as Oneness are being threatened, and so we strive to do everything possible to safeguard ourselves, which may include:
- Stepping outside of our comfort zone
- Taking risks
- Sacrificing food, goods, finances
- Sharing services, space, equipment
- Offering emotional support
- Devising alternative solutions
- Building bridges (literally and figuratively)
Every act from our individuality is integrated into our Oneness, amplified within our Oneness, and reflected back out through each individual at that much higher of an energetic level, having that much more of an impact on the situation.
That is the exponential beauty of being connected through Oneness in a focused, intense way on a big-picture kind of goal.
Together we make a difference. We see the evidence of our amplified impact and sometimes step back in amazement and gratitude for what we accomplish together.
And there is no denying that the best of our individual selves is highlighted.
So, what happens afterward?
Now that we have a taste of Oneness and the experience of being part of an immense wave of impact, we take that into our daily lives.
We do not need to wait for a large-scale disaster to occur in order to call upon our Oneness. We can harness those intentions and energy in everyday situations, as so many have done for so long already.
Lend a hand with your neighbor’s lawn. Bring meals to a grieving family. Drive your friend to doctor’s appointments.
The small, everyday actions may not be noticed as often as when they are happening on the world’s stage, but they are just as, if not more, important and impactful.
Every opportunity we take to channel our efforts together makes us stronger and makes our best better. All for one and one for all.
“We rise by lifting others.”
~ Robert Ingersoll
If the sun is shining, my Crosstrek is calling me to fill up her tank, throw open her sunroof, and head for the back-roads. With wind in my hair, I smile at everyone I see. Grace smiles back at me (even through the trees).