When Community Matters Most

Contributed by Hal Chapel, CEO and Co-Founder of Lotsa Helping Hands

As family and friends of the victims of the Aurora tragedy began their unbearable journey dealing with the impossible suddenly becoming reality, the rest of the country looked on with horror, sadness, and anger. We were all unexpectedly united, simply as human beings distraught, appalled, and without answers to so many questions such shock evokes.  Many of us wanted desperately to do something, anything, to help those immediately affected by this terror, to let them know they were not alone.  But of course, what could we really do?

The Power of Empathy

The human desire to reach out and help is an expression of what many psychologists and biologists might explain as one of our most primitive neurological wirings:  empathyFeeling what others are experiencing is a sophisticated evolutionary mechanism that provides an advantage in the survival of our human species. Shocking events that shatter our view of the world shake us from complacency and awaken deep emotional responses.  We feel the terror of the movie-goers as they suddenly realized the masked gunman and gas cloud were not part of the movie.  We feel the utter fear trying to escape the theater, not knowing how or if we would get out.  We feel the disbelief as family members and friends learned of loved ones lost to a madman’s actions.  We feel the trauma and guilt and incomprehension of those survivors who are both grateful and confused about the randomness of their own survival.

And we feel the pain of the citizens of Aurora, their attempts to understand that which may never be understood, their sorrow, their need to help the victims and their families, and their desire to prove that their city and neighborhoods are populated by caring citizens.  This expression of support and service to their fellow neighbors is heartfelt.  If ever there is proof of unconditional love and altruistic behavior not based on obligation, the collective response to tragedies such as Aurora’s qualifies.

There is something else going on. In addition to the altruistic offers of help resulting from truly feeling the myriad emotions experienced by the affected families and the surviving victims, we also need to find a way to deal with our own feelings of fear, sadness, anger, and sense of helplessness.  Is there no better way to begin coping with our own tangle of emotions than to reach out and help those most affected?

The Gift of Community

The word ‘community’ is derived from the Latin word communitas, (cum, ‘with’ or ‘together’ + munus, ‘gift’). It is indeed a gift when people come together to help each other in community.  But who is giving the gift?  For whom is the gift intended?  The answer is not provided by the Latin, but rather for those in the community to discover.  And here’s what is discovered almost every time people actively participate in community:  the distinction between giver and recipient does not exist! The presumed providers of help discover that they have received as much from helping as those they have helped.

Open Communities of Lotsa Helping Hands

At Lotsa Helping Hands we are blessed and honored to witness every day this discovery, or re-discovery, of the giver/receiver conundrum.  Testimonials from our million plus Community Members express this sense of awe in so many different ways.

We have created a Lotsa Helping Hands Open Community in Aurora to support the city following last week’s horrible event.  To help the victims and their families, yes.  But also to help their fellow citizens find a way to express their sincere desire to support and assist those most in need.  And to help the good people of Aurora find a way to show each other that they care, that they care for the victims and their families, that they care for each other, and that they care about their city and neighborhoods.  If you live in Aurora, or know of someone who does, go to Help for Aurora at www.lotsahelpinghands.com/aurora to give or receive help. Or review this list of nonprofit organizations through the Giving First Organization. All 11 organizations are offering direct support to those affected, and encourage your support.