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Does a crisis bring out the best in us?

    In the past few months, there seem to have been a lot of crisis hitting America. For example, the flooding in Texas, the hurricane in Florida and more recently the mass murder in Las Vegas. These sorts of events can leave you feeling disoriented and dejected.

    While we certainly hope that things will settle down now and that there will not be any more major events, it is interesting to reflect on the more positive aspects that come out of tragedy. I have listening to an audiobook by Sebastian Junger called Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. It presents the view that war and crisis bring people together and give them the feeling of being part of a tribe – part of a close-knit community.

    While some view this book as presenting a one-sided picture that isn’t always true, I think that most people from their own experience would concur that whenever something really bad happens, people do tend to bind together and to help each other out. Unfortunately, not always, but often nonetheless.

    I know, living as I did in Australia in the tropics, I went through a number of really devastating cyclones and after they hit, neighbors did come out of their houses and help one another. I am sure it is the same after a hurricane or flood.

    Sebastian Junger said that research has shown that men are more likely to be heroes and to rush to rescue a stranger, whereas women are more likely to take a moral stance. If there are no men around, women, however, will often rise to the challenge of the rescue.

    He related the story of some Muslim women traveling on a bus in Kenya, which as the BBC news explained when it was, “ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups“. That brought a tear to my eye. It makes you wonder if you were in the same circumstance, would you stand up for what you think is right even if it meant risking your own life? Fortunately in this case, “The militants decided to leave after the passengers’ show of unity.

    Of course, if a crisis goes on and on, like domestic violence often does, people feel worn down by it. For that sort of crisis, we recommend you get the counseling and help you need to get out of that situation. But if a crisis doesn’t last that long, at least in the beginning people can find themselves doing things they never thought they could.

    Junger described two types of heroes that emerge in crisis that do take a longer time. The first type of hero tries and sometimes succeeds in finding solutions (or to defeat the enemy). The second type of hero keeps up the moral of the group as they wait (e.g. for a rescue as in the case of a mine collapse). What sort of hero do you think you would be?

    In the coming days as our friends in places that have been affected struggle to regroup and recover from what they have been through, let’s hope we can be the sort of heroes that help them out in whatever way we can, even if its just by giving them the encouragement and emotional support they need.

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