Sickness. Death. Tragedy. Unemployment. Addiction. Homelessness. Natural disaster. It all hurts. The bulk of it is unexpected and unfair. Almost all of it is hard to recover from. Sometimes we can see it coming and it seems we're powerless to stop it. Other times the trigger is released before we even get a chance to find out the barrel was pointed at us. We mourn. We worry. We're angry.... and eventually we surrender to the facts. All we can do is start figuring out what pieces are left to somewhat move on with.
Then the beauty starts. People who otherwise could be no different start taking full advantage of what they have to offer each other. I remember reading something about eight years ago that made so much sense to me. I wish I could remember the source in order to give proper credit and further reference but basically it said that there are "we" people in the world and "I" people in the world.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both but it refers to how people process and understand their place in the world. "I" personalities are those that, unfair at times, come across as selfish because their viewpoint is motivated by how the world services them directly. The "We" personalities tend to have the modus operandi of how do they service the world.
Both are important for society to live in balance, and it is always highlighted in times of high societal stress. One group out of their instinct for self-preservation thrives at identifying how to solve problems that ensure their survival while the other group is genius at finding ways to effectively multiply those solutions.
When do most families who haven't seen each other in months or years get together? For a funeral. When do most nonprofit organizations likely get their highest influx of donations and volunteers? After a city or country has fallen apart. When do most entrepreneurs get the courage to start their own business? When they are in debt or they feel at their lowest for whatever reason in an area of their lives. When do most people forgive others or set aside their difference or pray? When something catastrophic happens that turns everything they love upside down. It is undeniable.
It is spiritual. It is scientific. We were, we are, we will be created to steady one another. This concept shines every time something bad happens, even if it isn't automatic and takes time to develop.
Take the example of the Johnstown Flood of 1889 in Johnstown, PA where over 2200 people were wiped out due to a dam that broke during heavy rain. Some of the loss could have been prevented had the dam had proper maintenance and people heeded warnings to evacuate. But in the end everybody that did survive helped to rebuild the town with the help of donations from around the country. The tragedy also initiated the American Red Cross to begin assisting in relief efforts that were not war-related, such as disaster relief, that it is widely known for today.
Over two thousand people died inspiring such a response that millions more people in various cities and nations in the future would have the benefit of receiving crisis aid. This and other flood disasters such as the Galveston Flood of 1900 have contributed over time to better weather prediction capabilities and evacuation procedures that have minimized casualties in modern day history.
We could also look back at the Great Depression which lasted almost 10 years for proof of crisis creating camaraderie against a common enemy, particularly when the enemy is being poor. In times of economic crisis, people lose their confidence in banks or the debt becomes so significant that buying power dramatically slows down. Soon production has no choice but to slow down or stop resulting in more debt and even less buying power since even people willing and capable of working cannot.
In the case of the Great Depression turning around, what happened? We got attacked by Japan and so pissed off that eventually everyone decided to throw themselves into producing necessities to join the war with everyone else (that common enemy again)!
As devastating as the Pearl Harbor loss was, it spawned the beginning of resolve that America needed to not only lift itself into economic stability but to extend opportunities that might have otherwise taken even longer to get started such as women and minorities being considered for jobs (unfortunately also creating the wage gaps) or veterans getting an education and opportunities to buy their first home.
Can we get to the cooler side of crisis with our fellow human beings without the crisis having to happen? Shouldn't treating one another with decency almost be a requirement and looking out for one another be a standard? Or in good times do we get too complacent and too selfish to consistently think of benefiting others as much as we look to benefit ourselves? Recently the entire world has had another common enemy... COVID-19.
Nations have warned each other, companies seek to take care of their workforce, because how can they continue on if they lose everyone by mishandling the situation? Neighbors are sharing supplies, doctors are fighting the good fight together and companies are mobilizing to produce needed safety materials. For-profit lenders are finding ways to put their customers first.
What beautiful outcomes have come out of something as horrible as what we have seen! People are literally sacrificing and being sacrificed in order for the world to work together to defeat the enemy. But what happens once the enemy is defeated? Is it business as usual again where it is every man for himself and rather than toilet paper being hoarded and held hostage, it's goodwill to stranger, or to an employee, or to a customer?
As entrepreneur Jim Rohn would put it, spring follows winter, summer follows spring, fall follows summer and so on. Spring (opportunities to capitalize on things presented to us) will soon be on it's way but there will be another winter (crisis, despair) forcing people together again.
Getting to that cool side of crisis means knowing well before winter that winter needs preparation. We will need each other again so why not build and nurture relationships before it becomes dire? Why not stop overcharging so that consumers can save and be better able to depend on themselves to ride through hard economic times? Why not cease to tie up court systems and hospitals and jails with issues that could be resolved with patience and flexibility and compassion for people who didn't try taking advantage of anything?
As a parent, why not be active in supporting teachers and being involved with your kid whether or not they are struggling? Why not pay attention to political issues in your community that affect the well-being of people you know even when it doesn't directly affect you? I include myself in this. Many times I want to volunteer for this or help out with that and I don't always prioritize lining up a couple hours of childcare or consistently taking action to get someone what they need. The opportunities often find me instead of me finding them.
Until the world stops turning and there is no world left, people will continue getting through hard times. Spring will always follow winter. How about we start making sure winter isn't too cold for each other and therefore we all get to stay warm?
**Additonal Sources Used**
John Harrington, What are the worst floods in American history. USAToday.Com (2018)