It seems these days, perhaps just because there is so much more news, we seem to experience tragedy almost daily. In some ways, we have lost our sensitivity, we have become somewhat numb.
Tragedy has unfortunately become the grey noise in the background, things that fill the editorial content calendars of all the 24-hour news desks around the globe; tsunamis, earth quakes, school shootings, wars, mass casualty events of every sort.
It’s someone else’s problem.
But it isn’t really, if you are involved.
What does that mean, involved?
Does it mean that you know someone, you are related to someone, you knew them once, you’ve met them, or maybe you’ve just heard of them? Maybe there’s a kinship of experience, something you’ve done, just like the person who’s been lost or injured.
Or maybe like what happened this week in a small town in Canada, Humboldt, Saskatchewan, a whole nation has been devastated because of an inherent cultural connection to the sport of hockey.
Hockey in Canada is part of the fabric of our nation, it bonds much of the nation through a common set of experiences, viewed through different lenses.
Hockey is a uniquely Canadian community.
We are all individuals, we seek our basis for differentiation. Clothes, accessories, material goods, jobs, tattoos, friends, homes, cars, and so much more, these are the symbols of status, but also the symbols of definition.
Who am I, or who am I not?
To be the same is somehow to be branded insignificant, so in our quest to be significant, we accumulate and connect with material items and statements of individuality.
But material goods fade, and so in turn require renewed emphasis on the next item of business, a never-ending quest.
However, when we realize that our personal growth is connected directly to the empowerment of contribution, especially contribution to our community, that’s where things get interesting.
This is where philanthropists of certain ilk get it wrong.
The person who espouses to be giving away so much wealth in order to help the underprivileged is often left empty and filling the void with still more donations.
Ultimately the truth of a philanthropic life is giving back to the community with whom you are connected. And this connection starts in some instances early in life, but even when it doesn’t, establishing a path of contribution and an alignment with real human connection is the ticket.
The unfettered love of community is the anchor in our lives, at least for those of us fortunate to have a community around us.
Much of this is the centre point of the success of Facebook, where anyone who wants to, can create a community of connection, or can create an on-line product or service and market, promote, and even deliver it on-line to a community if they so desire.
Facebook provides the soil for community when used well. But it has also, along with much of social media, created the side effect of isolation.
We are alone in our community instead of truly connected to it. We now live in virtual communities where there is emotional and intellectual connection, but what seems to be missing is the true mutual suffering and success that used to occur in physical communities.
Physical community is the real deal. When people suffer and succeed together, build and create together, support one another, and take turns doing so, a bond is forged that is empowering. It empowers each individual to reach higher, or to overcome adversities that alone may seem impossible.
That is the power of real community.
As we see these days, when such tragedy occurs, the communities where there are deep roots of connection are the ones that somehow find the silver lining of “one for all” that doesn’t replace the lost and injured, but consoles the pain and suffering of the moment, and the moments to come.
We are better when we are part of a community, individual in our character and aspirations, but aligned on our concerns and connection.
Originally published at medium.com