Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Up Side of Calamity

Few people relish the thought of getting caught in a hurricane, tornado, tsunami, flood, earthquake or a man-made disaster. Most of us try to avoid pain, sorrow and misery. Yet, for all the negatives a calamity bestows, there IS a silver lining.

Calamity tends to bring out the best in many people. If you don't believe this, consider the recent example of Hurricane Katrina.

While the response of the government (federal, state AND city) was woefully inadequate, this cannot be said of everyday citizens. Many people took it upon themselves to reach out to others in need. The media reported about many who drove hundreds of miles to make a positive difference in the lives of strangers.

More importantly, the labels we often utilize in our social relations seemed to vanish in thin air. Republicans and Democrats, young and old, black and white, straight and gay, Christian and non-Christian, rich and poor came together to lend a helping hand. People, who might normally never interact with each other, stood arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder.

The experience of calamity tends to reinforce the idea that we share more in common with our fellow beings than there are arbitrary things that separate us.

It's too bad that, once the adrenaline rush of calamity passes, we return to our self-built fortresses of intolerance and exclusivity.

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