Tragedy brings out our best

BAD things happen to good people. It isn't fair, it doesn't make sense to any sort of world view that tries to teach us the values of being a virtuous person, but it happens all the time.

In my little community a woman who has given so much time and energy to the school, pre-school and other community organisations has been struck down with a terminal illness. From what I hear, she is unlikely to see Christmas.

It was sudden and shocking news.

She will leave behind a primary school aged child and a relatively new partner who may have no rights to look after the child he has formed a strong bond with.

People in our community are cooking meals and offering whatever support they can.

That's what we do. That's what defines a community.

Time and time again we hear that tragedy and adversity bring out the best in people.

As Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc across America's east coast, the news stories are already focussing on the efforts of volunteers to help those in need. We see the same narrative happening every time a fire or a flood rips through an unsuspecting community.

Those who weren't affected feel a collective sense of relief that it wasn't them - that life's lottery dealt them a good hand on that occasion. And by pitching in and helping those who weren't so lucky, we are acknowledging a sort of debt of gratitude to the universe.

This week Rudi Maxwell has written about her experience helping out at the Coraki Art Prize (see Modern Woman, page 8) and how the community of Coraki rallied around to support the event after the main organiser was struck down with illness.

The nature of community has changed with the online world expanding the definition, but there is still something strong and tangible about your immediate, geographic community. And it doesn't matter if it's New York City, with a population of over eight million, or a small rural village.

Bad things happen to good people. It isn't fair, but we define ourselves by how we respond.

Topics:  opinion



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