What is it that has us live as if we are separate, individual beings walking our own path? All around us is evidence of the connectedness of the universe. The single planets are part of a solar system. An event anywhere within that system has an effect on the whole.
It doesn’t really matter what causes this fallacy of unconnected lives. It is more important to seek the truth that, like the planets, the actions of a single person ripple out into the world.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we’ve seen the power of people joining together and sharing resources to overcome the challenges of loss and lack of essentials. Cooperation over competition. We versus me. It is inspiring to witness and to take part in this universal exchange, but must we wait for a crisis or natural disaster to employ this way of living?
Last Monday, I joined fellow hotel guests in the executive lounge on the top floor of my hotel across from Newark Airport while Sandy whipped her winds and torrential rain at the large windows. Bright strobes caught our attention and we wondered for a moment if they were searchlights meant to help first responders navigate the darkened streets. Beacons guiding people through Sandy’s imposed blackness. Power workers from Wisconsin shook the warmth from this vision when they let us know it these were transformers exploding, lighting up the night sky. The very things they’d been flown in to fix whenever winds dissipated and assessments were made.
The hotel had promised power no matter what and, like many, I’d been lulled into the security of backup generators that would see us through the storm. The real life translation was we had power for emergency hall lighting and one elevator. Period. I shared with my fellow stranded hotel guests that I had a warm bed in a home with power awaiting me at the home of one of the wonderful executives I’d flown in to meet with pre-Sandy…if I could get to Morristown.
Thank goodness I’ve gotten much better at accepting offers for help. A couple who’d escaped their Morristown Victorian home in anticipation of the loss of power was planning to head home the next morning and offered me a ride. Twelve hours later I arrived safely. All around us, communities pulled together. People offered hot meals, showers, laundry, freezer space, power for charging cell phones, internet connections and anything else they could do to ease the suffering caused by Sandy. There was no “I” and everyone was welcome into this wonderful space of caring.
In the aftermath, I read the powerful story of a medical student who assisted in the evacuation of patients from a NY area hospital. He shares the story of transporting critically ill patients hooked to oxygen and other life supplying fluids and machines down many flights of stairs in the dark. Had the team not worked cooperatively with each person doing their role but in relation to all the others, patients would have died. In those moments, the patients needed their rescuers to overcome the Great Divide and work together as one.
My question no longer is why does it take a catastrophic event to remind us we are always in this together but what will it take to maintain this cooperative model of living in true community?
Let’s not wait until times when we “have to” pull together. Instead, we can choose a model every day of community, service, connection. Within this is a life of meaning, contribution and knowing that each night before we go to sleep we’re leaving the world a better place than when we when we awoke in the morning. Time to change WIFM (What’s In It for Me) to WBAW (We’re Better As We). Now, THAT would be extraordinary!