I got to have a good long conversation with a local counselor today about resilience in Nepal. She told me that after the earthquake happened, the big international NGOs came in and explained to the local people that in order to boost resilience, they had to take care of each other… and the local people were all like “duh!!” (Well actually they probably smiled and nodded politely so as not to offend the nice people from the ICRC.)
The counselor told me that she told me that she was really proud of how people reacted after the earthquake. People didn’t wait for others to come over and ask for help. They actively went out and visited one another. No one in her community was stuck for a place to stay. If there was place in the house, other people were welcome.
Little by little, I’ve been hearing and seeing more and more stories about how people have taken care of each other as a matter of course. Stories such as local clans organizing funds together with their relatives living abroad to help those less fortunate in their communities back home. And not just donating money, but actively getting involved in organizing the activities that would help others.
Of course, it’s also easy to romanticize. There are many stories of kindness and solidarity that emerge in the wake of the earthquake, and there are also many of tales of people behaving like scum (taking advantage of the situation for child trafficking, sexual assault, and so on.) A situation like the earthquake blows open the normal structures of everyday life, and reveals the more spontaneous aspects of human nature, for better and for worse.
But once again, the message that I learn is that the flexibility and adaptability that are inherent in resilience come hand in hand with human connectedness, compassion and solidarity. I think of all the other situations unfolding in the world, and wonder what an extra dose of warmth and compassion might do for them.