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Sitting before the TV, transfixed by the Maui wild fires, my imagination transports me to the island. I see myself turning toward the ocean, and running for my life. I see myself impeded, slowed by neuropathy. As the uncontrolled wind sweeps across the terrain, I imagine the flames overtaking me.

In real time, Maui’s suffering is inconceivably devastating.

“Everything happens for a reason,” or so they say. If it is a natural disaster, our minds turn to Mother Nature or Father God and we ask why did you let this happen? In the case of a manmade disaster, we ask who is to blame? In either case, we ask why did this happen to me, or why was I spared?  

I have no answer, but I do know the response of the people. The strength of human nature is the response. We are all family, we are community.

A middle-aged man grabs his two children, then goes next door to rescue his neighbor’s kids. Counted among the living, they all survive. As first responders comb the rubble in Maui, search and rescue transforms into search and recovery.

The inhabitants of Maui create a community of Aloha, combining love, peace, grief and compassion. In the distance, brightly garbed women from pre-teens to elders dance the hula. Tradition and Community across generations.  

My heart goes out to my Maui brothers and sisters for demonstrating a sense of community that we could all follow on the countless disaster scenes that play out across our country’s mainland. Meanwhile, a building collapses in New York City. Mudslides engulf neighborhoods in California. In the New England flood waters folks inhale their final breath in their cars or homes.

Everything happens for a reason? I’m still not convinced. But I do see that how we respond to the aftermath of a tragedy determines whether the human spirit dies or sustains itself. Heroes emerge in the face of tragedy. If the need is concrete, we can provide food, clothing, and financial assistance to sustain the victims. If the need is emotional, we can offer a shoulder to lean on and provide compassion and strength.

Community is not limited to neighborhood. It is a group of people whose sense of wellbeing is strengthened by their interconnectedness. As we examine our country’s divisiveness, perhaps we can be proactive in creating a stronger demonstration of community motivated not only by tragedy, but by a more inclusive concern for our fellow human beings.   

written by Amy Bryant, Safety Harbor Resident Blogger
Author of “You Can Go Home Again

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