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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nature’s Best Deed

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

Promoting Compassion

Harvey, Irma, Jose... As we’ve watched with awe, what Mother Nature can do, it’s also brought us face-to-face with the best traits of human beings. Frankly, in the last several months, I had started to question my basic belief in the positive and good nature of people. The divisiveness, the nasty and cruel comments on social media and elsewhere, even with people face-to-face with others in stores, became a huge obstacle to having faith in the human race. Granted, there were many factors adding fuel to that fire, but I kept wondering how any person could become so twisted. This from someone who has been working with people for the last 35 years...

When people take care of each other, the brain responds with the pleasure centers lighting up, and therefore, this behavior is almost baked in to the psyche. Going back thousands of years, in hunting-gathering societies, if one person was in pain, it affected everyone. So that physiological response has evolved to m    aking us altruistic. Perhaps this behavior is more pronounced when communities feel totally helpless in the face of natural disasters, when we know controlling our environment is out of our hands. Then, helping one another becomes natural as everyone is in the same boat, and sometimes quite literally, in floods.

Once the intensity of the weather dies down, and rebuilding begins, how do we keep the same sense of camaraderie? How do we not slide into the polarized country that we have become? Will people remember that it was a black man, or a Muslim soldier, or a transgender neighbor, or a gay or lesbian member of the community that pulled them out of the flood or the hurricane winds? I am definitely hopeful that those memories will produce changes. I base my belief on the fact that living through traumatic times does bond people. We see others, those we thought were so different than us, after all, are just like us, with the same needs and feelings. Further, that we are all human beings in that moment of vulnerability and the rescuer’s skin color, religion, sexual preference, or political affiliation make no difference other than they have the strength to take care of us.

If our communities can come together as a whole following the tragedies and the disaster, nature will have, in a way, healed the country through this drastic move. Perhaps it is too Pollyanna-ish to expect this, but I would rather put my faith in that than lament that we are being punished for our sins or that we are a victim of circumstances that we curse.

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