If you live in Australia, it’s impossible not to have noticed the series of bushfire crises that have been unfolding throughout our various states in the last couple of weeks.
With record summer temperatures, the environment has been ripe for bush fires that have caused huge personal losses throughout Tasmania and NSW, as well as other states.
Bush fires and other natural disasters have a lot to teach us about the power of relationships.
I am constantly impressed by the amazing generosity that people and communities have shown in the wake of the bush fire disasters.
The rural bush fire service alone is an incredible volunteer organisation where people put their lives on the line to fight bush fires in all states of Australia.
What is it that possesses people to risk their lives to save the lives of strangers?
The power of community and relationships
One aspect of the rural bush fire service is that it’s a community of people that are protecting a larger community. I believe that communities are an integral and necessary part of our lives to keep us safe and promote our health and longevity.
We know that in ancient times, often a person was cast out from a village or community as a form of severe punishment. This punishment was really a death sentence, because an individual needed the community to be able to survive the harsh environment. By becoming an outcast from their village, they were assured of certain death.
The opposite is also true. When we promote and support communities and the relationships within them, we are also promoting and supporting the health and wellbeing of all the individuals within that community.
It seems to me that natural disasters in Australia, such as bush fires, amplify our sense of community and the importance of being there for one another.
Virtual communities and relationships can also make a difference
You only need to take one look at the Facebook page Tassie Fires- We Can Help, to witness the incredible outpouring of support from the community towards those individuals in distress who have lost everything.
Social media also facilitates the groundswell of support from individuals and communities when there is a natural disaster. In a way, social media networks are another form of community, only that it’s a virtual community interconnected by technology.
I was particularly touched by the story of Tasmanian woman Sarah King, who offered her house for use by someone who had lost their house in the bush fires. Her post went viral and was shared over 50,000 times on Facebook.
Perhaps part of the challenge for us as individuals is to maintain our sense of community and to support ongoing generosity, even when there are no natural disasters.
With communities being so important for our health, it makes sense that we need to foster a greater sense of connectedness so that we can building healthy individuals, happy families and thriving communities.