Have you ever wondered how a crisis brings out the best in people? We know a challenging situation can also bring out the worst in people. Compare that to how many people you know who successfully overcame difficult circumstances. Most of these people even came out of the experience in better shape than before they encountered their challenge.
Our personal challenges helps us grow individually. A crisis that affects a whole community of people can bring out both the worst and best in people. The media mostly highlights the negative, so let’s focus instead on the bright side – how a crisis brings out the best in people.
Most of us may see people, even ourselves, as essentially selfish and cruel. Then we find ourselves sharing and giving aid to other people who are in need. We even do so without asking anything in return. This seems to be a conflicting picture. This is even more noticeable in times of crisis.
Disasters overhaul our negative assumptions about human nature. Deep down, we know that human beings are compassionate and can be selfish when they choose to be. We tend to suppress this compassionate nature and develop an instinct for selfishness to survive instead. The world is harsh and people can be cruel after all. We protect ourselves from these elements by being harsh and cruel ourselves.
A crisis unmasks in us all these layers of protection that we have put on through the years. Disasters have brought about so many acts of kindness and self-sacrifice. Through the suffering of other people, we are shown a reflection of our own vulnerability and our own need for some one, other than ourselves, to help us and protect us.
Seeing other people struggling because of things that are not under their control makes us realize that this can also happen to us. We resonate even deeper with their situation if we have gone through a similar experience. This is how a crisis unlocks our sense of compassion and brings out the best in people. Even if the disaster is in another country, the human struggle we know is happening beyond the news, still tugs heavily at our hearts.
A crisis shows us our vulnerability as humans. It also shows us the weakness of other human beings. We expect people to fend for themselves when a natural calamity strikes. More often, the opposite is what actually happens.
There are many stories of people following instructions calmly instead of panicking as they go out a burning building. They calmly file out instead of shoving each other forward. They let the elderly, children and women go out first instead of running ahead themselves.
Stories of unsung heroes who carried injured fellows on their backs to help them survive a natural disaster abound. Complete strangers taking care of others who are injured in a cave-in always brings tears and pride in our hearts. The disaster almost cost them their lives but it also taught them a lesson in kindness and caring. They end up being lifelong friends because of overcoming a shared challenge together.
We are often told when we were young to be our brother’s keeper. To take care of our fellow humans. We often don’t take these words too seriously. Disasters make us realize the value of these words. It gives us clarity on what’s most important in the moment. The value of another person’s life takes on even greater significance. The value of more lives takes on greater importance than our own life. This is where the capacity to sacrifice for others comes from. This is how heroes are born, both known and unknown.
The news is almost always filled with the negative side of a crisis. We see acts of violence and selfishness, panic and fear. Some of these scenarios are true but there is a bright side to all of this. Amidst all the desperation, there are moments of joy.
A crisis usually results in a surge in solidarity among people of different backgrounds. We see people supporting campaigns to help the affected community. Some offer financial help, some are there to help physically and some provide support by providing supplies in kind. Everyone comes together in their intention to alleviate the condition of other people in difficulty. There is a sense of collaboration that is created when everyone is willing to listen to everyone else. Each one is only interested in how they can help. Most importantly, they offer their help without complaint and without expecting anything in return.
Even organizations take the initiative to show support. Sometimes it’s because the disaster is within their area or is of interest to them. In most cases, simply because they genuinely want to help.
The affected group of people themselves become even more solid in their sense of community. They take care of each other in various ways. Family members tend to prioritize the children and the elderly when distributing basic needs such as food and shelter. Those physically able take in extra effort to provide and help those who are weak and injured. The youth who are usually complaining at the small discomforts exert effort to work together to entertain or to help their community. Everyone acts as though they are a member of one community. There is solidarity to work towards a single cause.
The giver and the receiver benefits during a disaster. The giver is able to practice and express their kindness. The receiver is able to express their gratitude for the helping hand.
The giver also experiences gratitude in these trying times. They realize that they are lucky compared to the other. The giver becomes grateful for their luck. They see that they have more than the other. Their act of sharing is also an expression of gratitude for the good opportunities they have.
Everyone wants to give and share what they can in a disaster. The recipients are genuinely grateful. They too realize that they are lucky to survive the situation. Lucky enough to be able to receive help and to express back their thanks.
Both sides realize the things that they have to be grateful for. Both parties give each other hope in different ways. The disaster may have resulted in huge losses for one party. As a result, two parties end up gaining more in life experience and hopefully, in wisdom.
A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle.– Malcolm Gladwell
A disaster makes us realize that humans are deeply kind and compassionate. That strangers are actually caring and nurturing. That a community can act as one for a common goal.
A crisis can be life-altering. It shows us the ugly side of life and the worst side of people. It can also be enlightening and beautiful. A crisis is an opportunity to act and care for others. It helps us recognize that we need others but also that others need us. A crisis allows us to remember the things that we should be grateful for. It reminds us that there is hope and joy to be found even in the darkest times, and that we can be the source of both. This is how a crisis brings out the best in people and in groups of people.
Feature Image: Original Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash.