|Mural in Athens, Greece. (photo Sarah Jean Harrison)|
The Neighbours United for Inclusion Community BBQ on September 14th confirmed a few of my suspicions about humanity. Although we like to keep it quiet, us humyns are just waiting for a moment to spring into action and shower each other with love and support. I saw this with my own eyes on Saturday when 300+ neighbours and friends came out to support our belief in LGBTQ inclusion.
Anecdotal you say? What about Syria? What about Egypt? What about the Washington Navy Yard and bullying and drone missiles and hate crimes? All real. But not necessarily accurate.
People hide a little secret underneath their stand-offish demeanor and don’t-involve-me attitudes. Behind all that reserve most of us are waiting like an excited five year old for a moment to emerge where we can leap in to support someone else.
How can I make such a claim?
By studying disasters.
Hostage Crisis, Nairobi, Kenya 2013 - Stay home in fear? Hide out inside? Not in Nairobi where people are streaming into the city to donate blood, bring food, make tea and sing to one another. The crisis continues but “everybody has someone else taking care of them”.
Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, 2005 - Despite the inaccurate rumours of roving gangs and looting, people (locally and globally) rushed in to help organize food, shelter, boats, mold scrubbing, rebuilds, clothing and volunteers. Pascal was a part of leading a class from Ryerson University to New Orleans, focusing on rebuilding homes in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
Black Out on the Eastern Seaboard, 2003 - Chaos in the streets? Random smash and grabs? Nope. But a lot of neighbourhood BBQs and potlucks, checking in on elderly community members and staring at the milky way.
When we face disaster our immediate response is not chaos and greedy self-preservation. Instead we rush to help one another. Rebecca Solnit’s, A Paradise Built In Hell, documents instance after instance of people reacting to disaster with support and love. Her research challenges that nasty rumour that humyns are brutish and cruel; the reality is that we jump in to help every time.
But here’s the trick: we have to understand exactly what we can do to help. We need to see where
to act and what to do. If we can’t see a space to enter the situation then we are likely to stand aside and remain passive to the most horrific of situations. During a disaster, that opportunity to see where we can be of support is clear; get water, cook food, build shelter, get to safety, dig for survivors, treat wounds, attend a BBQ, fly a Rainbow flag. When we are given the opportunity (accidentally or intentionally) to act out our capacity for kindness and support, we will bound into action.
|Disaster + Clear Opportunity to Help = People Respond with Support|
It happened in our neighbourhood. Peace FIag House and our neighbours had (a small) disaster of slashed tires, stolen flags and hate graffiti. We dreamed up a community BBQ as a response. The magic formula was in place: disaster + clear opportunity to help = people respond with support. The response for the two weeks leading up to the BBQ was person after person jumping in to help: services, time, work, labour, food and items all freely given.
Add it to the list of how fabulous we can be to one another.
We have many examples thrown at us depicting how beastly and terrifying we are to each other. But I think this horrific behaviour is the exception, not the rule. Our consistently supportive reaction to disasters indicates that our first humyn compulsion is to care for each other.
Perhaps peacing for peace isn’t as difficult as we may think.
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