Why Does It Take a Tragedy or Disaster to Unite Humanity?

In one week our country went from riots to rescues—but why does it take a tragedy to bring out good will?

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Photo: CBS This Morning via YouTube

As the unfathomable images, videos, commentary about Hurricane Harvey continue to pour in from every media source, the reality of our frailty and vulnerability as humans stares back at us.

Mother nature can’t be tamed. She has a mind of her own and it is in her life force to be free. We are at her mercy.

Last week, pre-Harvey, images of protests, riots, beatings, tongue lashings, cyber ranting filled up screens on every media platform from dawn til dusk. The reality of our frailty and vulnerability as humans stared back at us—for different, yet also unfathomable, reasons.

The violence, hatred, vitriol a reminder that perhaps humanity can’t be tamed either.

Or can we?

Looking at the collateral beauty of the devastation in Houston, the everyday heroes, first responders. caring neighbors,  Cajun Navy,  loving citizens—people helping people—proves the opposite.

Our nature as human beings is also to be free—free to reach out and help another without restraint. Why? Because our truest self was created to love, to have compassion, to save a life if a life needs saving. In an instant we are capable of jumping into action without a single self-serving thought. In a split second, something inside us knows without a doubt what to do when another human is in danger. That something is to love them, help them, save them.


Photo: CBS This Morning via YouTube

We are wired to love at our core, and tragedy, disaster, trauma flips a switch inside us. It converts negative energy related to all things trivial, petty, fleeting, hurtful, and divisive into heartfelt focus on relationship to our fellow man. Connection and unity—our true life force—takes over. We put all things “me” aside for all things “you.” What a phenomenon.

Can you imagine if instead of instinctively helping our brothers and sisters in time of need we made a conscious choice to first evaluate whether the person was worthy of being saved? If we put their belief system, orientation, political alignment, race, religion, life choices, stance on hot button issues to the litmus test of our righteous idea of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s acceptable and unacceptable, before the value of their life?

What if the beautiful people of Texas, before jumping in dangerous waters to save someone from drowning, harbored a divisive attitude and first asked the struggling person the following: Are you conservative or liberal? Who did you vote for? What’s your sexual orientation? What camp are you in on this particular issue? Do you support this group? How about that movement? Who do you worship? Are you a legal citizen? What’s your nationality? Do you do drugs?  Did you have an abortion?

The answer to what happens if we pause for even a moment to ask these questions is imminent death. If not physical, emotional death is certain. I can’t bear to imagine the inner damage of being in a life threatening situation and asked questions to prove whether I was worthy of living–especially worthy as determined by my fellow man.

If we were to dig our heels further into righteousness and refuse to see a real life with a beating heart behind the labels we project on a person everyone could die. Or at best, only certain groups of people would survive. Feels like this is already happening on an emotional scale.

Thank God we aren’t wired this way in the depths of our soul. It’s not in our nature—at least during tragedy when trauma levels the playing field. Unspeakable terror causes the walls between us to become invisible. Lines in the sand blow away, and the anger, righteousness, arrogance, pain, resentment, bitterness, rage dissipates. Instantly. Well, at least in the immediate path of destruction. It won’t take you long to find a talking head removed from the situation who’s continuing to spout divisive rhetoric.

The question is why do we so often restrain our innate instinct to love outside of disaster? Why do we resist the urge to see past the false layers hiding the real heart of a person? Why do we choose to be the storm rather than the person who saves another from the storm?

Yes, we have a mind of our own and the gift—and  some may say curse—of free will, but how do we choose self-control and let go of wanting to be right, prove a point? We aren’t going to agree on everything. Ever. And we shouldn’t because evil exists everywhere and other people will disappoint, hurt, and disrespect us. Righteous anger is justified against the demons of the world. And we must defend and protect the innocent.

But to what extent do we unleash our rage and call it justified? When is being a tornado, tsunami, hurricane, flood, earthquake, landslide in another person’s life too much? Because behind every cruel gesture is another created being. Another human with the same inner beauty and love breathed into them at conception.

Somehow we know this in times of trouble.  Somehow we are able to respect this in disaster.

Somehow we need to figure out how to carry this love forward into our everyday, normal life. It is not our calling to drown others or blow them off the map because they are “different” from us. Never was.

Thank you, Houston, for showing us what real love is. Sounds to me like you all modeling such compassion is the status quo in your neck of the woods. The cameras just happen to be there now capturing your kind spirit in action. We need more of these cameras to capture the beauty of our generous civilization across the country because true love exists everywhere. If only our goal as a nation was to expose it.

It is my prayer that we not wait for another disaster to see such love come to light.

And it is my intention to stop being a storm when I feel justified and to instead be LOVE.

God speed, Houston. You have my heart.

 

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This article originally appeared at ShelbySpear.com.

Shelby Spear
Shelby is a Christian mom to three beautiful knuckleheads who have left her with an empty nest in which to ponder what the mom thing has (done to her) meant over the past twenty-two years. You can read her open book of revelations, screw-ups, gaffs, and joys at http://shelbyspear.com

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