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  • Writer's pictureElisa Juarez

The Power of Community

June 17, 2024



Last month I wrote about home, and how we create, experience, and care for it. This month I’ve gained a new perspective through working in disaster response for a community that was recently hit by multiple tornadoes. My manager and I, along with a few co-workers, attended a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center event last weekend. Our agency provides long-term recovery support and case management for people impacted by a natural disaster. This is a learning experience for me.


I have been talking to people who lost everything, including, in some cases, a family member. One family lost 3 children; another woman lost her husband. The level of loss and devastation is heart-wrenching. Their stories and tears are taking up residence in my heart and head, and it’s heavy. These families are suddenly homeless, and their sense of security has been replaced with despair. Where will we go? What will we do next? How will we recover? The trauma has thrown them off balance and filled them with fear, uncertainty, and grief.


I don’t know what the long-term support will look like, but for now our focus is on safety, basic needs, and medical needs. Do they have a safe place to stay? Do they need food and clothing? Are there medical conditions, disabilities, or medications to consider? As I listen, I gather information that will help us make a plan. I assure them that we are in it for the long haul, after FEMA and Red Cross have left. The road to recovery will be long and hard. They will need hope and stamina and help.


In times like these, we see the best of humanity and the power of community as people come together to hold each other up, giving food, clothing, shelter, and hope. This is the other part of the story - neighbors, local businesses, and nonprofits, showing up and giving generously. Here political, social, and racial divisions dissolve in shared vulnerability. We get a glimpse of how we were meant to live and love; we remember something that’s been lost.


Home is found in community, even when our house has been destroyed. There is another kind of shelter that surrounds and holds us. It rises from the rubble and surprises us with goodness and grace. One man I spoke with shared how humbling it has been, seeing how people have stepped in to help. He choked up, adding, “just the fact that you called…” I had to swallow the lump in my own throat.


If we look around our communities, we will find evidence of this goodness and grace revealed in acts of service and kindness. When we cultivate compassion and generosity, we begin to see people and circumstances through that lens. By seeing and being love in our world, we help to dissolve the barriers and beliefs that separate us. This creates a sense of belonging and wholeness that we all need in times of brokenness.


Compassion can be described as letting ourselves be touched by the vulnerability and suffering within ourselves and all beings.  -Tara Brach


Perhaps when our own walls come down, we are exposed to a brighter light than we have ever experienced. We see things we hadn’t noticed before and develop new pathways in the brain. Vulnerability gives us both strength and softness, empowering us to create something new. In community, we find common ground which is the foundation for understanding and healing. When much has been torn apart, our work is to bring goodness, generosity, and grace.


We are all aware of the deep divisions in our country. We have a choice and a responsibility to see beyond the differences to the truth of our oneness. It takes imagination and intention to create a whole world. I remember the song we used to sing, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” One whole wide world, held by the hands of Divine Love that created us all. Imagine that.


If we can imagine it, we can be those hands in our communities and bring healing, hope, and wholeness.


Rise & Shine,

ej

Elisa J. Juarez

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