Why Does It Take Tragedy To Make Us Good to People?

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by Laurie Riihimaki

I’m not going to sit here and say that the Coronavirus is a good thing. It’s not. It’s destroying the lives of many, pushing fear and anxiety onto millions of people around the world, and introducing us to a life of uncertainty. But, I will say that there is some good coming out of this pandemic, mainly in the form of human connection (obviously not physically because of social distancing law, but emotionally and mentally).

You cannot scroll through social media without seeing the voices of generous humans offering help and support to those in need. There are Facebook statuses offering food help to other families, videos of stage play productions and choir concerts to bring joy to people’s days and keep the arts alive, and, of course, so many tutorials on how to sew masks for healthcare workers. Seriously, my heart is full. 

And in all of this, there is something to be said about how a tragedy has a tendency to bring the world together in the best way. But, why do we have to wait until all the world has gone to shit? Why can’t we practice this generosity in our everyday lives?

We’ve have seen tragedy bring the people of the world together throughout many instances in history. In recent years, school shootings, wildfires, and hurricane disasters have turned humans from selfish pieces of shit to active do-gooders. But, why?

The answer lies in psychology. Humans bond over the trauma of tragic situations. As humans, we are naturally empathetic and during tough times we touch into that emotion and show our empathy through acts of service. We do this as a way to learn more about the situation in order to protect our loved ones, but also because we don’t like seeing people vulnerable and in pain. 

Throughout this pandemic, the social atmosphere of the world has been transformed. And, I believe it’s something we need to carry with us into the future.

We have seen this rollercoaster before. A disaster happens, we give all we’ve got to help the victims. We support them physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally. We give them all the tools we have and then we let go. We stop — usually when the media is on to the next big thing. These people are left on their own, except for the few who decide to stick around, to rebuild their lives after a disaster and hopefully, end up ok. But, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we never let go? If we, offered continual support to our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and even strangers?

Coronavirus is helping us to connect virtually in a way that has never been seen (like seriously, they didn’t have the internet during the Black Plague). Live-streams of free dance parties you can join in on, virtual co-lunching with co-workers during self-isolation, and free online lessons about whales from expert marine biologists are all things I have seen come to life on my Facebook timeline in the face of disaster. 

These simple acts to attempt to connect make the world a difference in brightening someone’s day. The global connection does not need to be associated with disaster. If we could just fight the urge to disagree on petty issues and act in selfishness, we could come together in peace, respect, communality, enhancing our species, our lives, and our emotional footprint. 

Look at this pandemic as step one for connectedness, and after it’s over, hopefully, we can move on from self-quarantine and connect in other beautiful ways, as well.  

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