When Disaster Strikes: We’re All in This Together

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Most of the time, days, weeks, and months go by without the kind of news we’ve experienced the last few days. In those times, we take much for granted.

For days now, the headlines have been filled with news about the earthquake that struck Haiti. A relatively poor country to start with and lacking in infrastructure, the quake has resulted in disaster of unthinkable proportions. And the worst may be still to come, as trapped people unable to be located or rescued in time perish and as frustration grows among those fortunate enough to survive but who still have not been able to access essentials like clean water, food, and medical aid.

It seems that disaster brings out the best and the worst of us. Worry is mounting that desperate individuals will increasingly riot, loot, and trample one another. At the same time, aid and goodwill are pouring in from around the globe. There’s no doubt that from one perspective at least, disaster really sucks. It makes even the most devout believer question whether there really is a God and why that God would have engineered creation in such a way that such human suffering and misery is possible. But in the midst of the greatest human tragedies, many of us also get reminded of some basic truths that help us put aside our petty differences and unite us in a common, noble cause.

For a moment, I’d like to speak not as a psychologist reflecting on the human condition but as a single individual revealing some pieces of his heart and soul. When anything like the Haiti earthquake happens, I get shaken back to a most sobering reality. I stop acting like I’m immortal or invincible. I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the power and force of nature. And I’m struck with a deep sense of vulnerability. Disaster reorients me completely.

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The fact is that all of us inhabit a sphere racing in boundless directions through vast space, and we have only a glimmer of understanding about where we came from and where we might be going. And as far as we know, this is the only such sphere among billions where conditions and materials are just right to nurture the miracle we call life. Even so, it’s not all that hospitable a place, and we’re constantly at the mercy of forces we have yet to really understand. We have a duty to protect and preserve our precious planet and resources. But even if we become much better stewards of the earth than we have been, we’re at the mercy of forces bigger and mightier than all of us. We’re adrift in a universe that, outside of our speck of an area within it, is toxic to human life. So, it’s very clear that more than anything else, we need each other. Without learning from one another and sharing with one another, we could not possibly sustain ourselves and prosper. Our very survival hinges on our ability to recognize, honor, and deal appropriately with the most essential truth: that we’re all in this together.

Most of the time, days, weeks, and months go by without the kind of news we’ve experienced the last few days. In those times, we take much for granted. We get lulled into believing that the things that really matter are where we will go out for dinner, whether we will be able to get that new car we want or secure that promotion at work. The tenuousness of life and our desperate need for one another are not in the forefront of our minds. It takes disaster to ground us and to wake us up. Life is precious. And it’s fragile. We need each other. These are the basic truths. Perhaps because we need to remember that so much and because we easily forget, God created a world in which disaster sometimes strikes.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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