I tried writing about a million different topics this week, but I can’t really focus on anything but this hurricane. We lost power for days on end, but we have had food, water, shelter. The images of those without any of these things, those in need of medical care, not to mention the devastation are deeply disturbing.
Although I knew that as a planet we’ve been headed in this direction for decades, I never believed it would happen so quickly, and I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around the sheer size of this storm, hitting New York City of all places. An earthquake in California, a tropical storm in Florida, a tornado in Kansas—these are not unexpected locations for Gaia’s fury. But a hurricane in the heart of Manhattan is so anachronistic—it’s like something straight out of a disaster film.
Except we’re not watching the credits with the comfort of knowing it was all just make-believe, a wild fictional exaggeration.
In futuring, we refer to these unexpected high-impact occurrences as Black Swan events. They underscore the fragility of our ability to predict the future, yet they also inevitably strengthen our sense of power in shaping the future.
Black Swan events force us to act. We have no choice. The status quo in one way or another is gone, and in the aftermath, we have the choice to rebuild what was lost or to create something better.
What is heartening is that I see all the ingredients we need to bounce forward: community, resilience, and a trust in the recovery process embodied in how many people are stepping forward to help, to donate, knowing that even the smallest donation will help and will be used to rebuild.
All over, people were taking in friends, family, even strangers who no longer had power—or homes. When Rabbi Alexander Rapaport heard about the horrible food being served at the armory to evacuees from Far Rockaway and Coney Island, he put out a call on social media for volunteers. Close to 100 people answered the call, making and delivering hot meals until the food ran out, at which point another social media request brought in donations that, last I heard, were still being used to feed the stranded.
Even before the NYC marathon was canceled, Julia Burke was planning to donate her entry fee and travel costs to the Red Cross and hold a marathon of her own in Buffalo to raise awareness and funds for the recovery—on Monday morning, she brought $2,700 in cash to the Red Cross, in addition to the more than $1,500 in online donations (which are still coming in) which she and the handful of women who joined her managed to raise through their alternative marathon.
Movements like Occupy Sandy (and Occupy Sandy NJ) have emerged, grassroots efforts to fill the inevitable gaps in our stretched-to-the-limit emergency services. You can get the latest updates on exactly what people need and where on the site or by following them on social media. Or you can donate through the Occupy Sandy “Wedding Registry” on Amazon, an ingenious way to make it easy for people to donate exactly what the hurricane victims need. (“This couple has requested no gift wrap.” 🙂
I could go on and on about the many people who have stepped up and come together, demonstrating community, resilience, and faith in each other and in themselves. I’m sure you have heard many stories yourself, or even taken part in creating one. What stands out to me in these stories is the creativity and the use of our virtual connection to each other to enlarge the community involved in the relief efforts.
I believe this only confirms the path we have been on all this time—toward more collaboration, more alignment of our values with our lives, our work, our businesses, more of a focus on people and the planet, even if this focus is coming rather late in the game as far as our planet goes. Is it too late? That depends on what we do next.
As we continue to move forward, to rebuild and build anew in the areas affected by the superstorm, I hope that this spirit of collaboration, community, creativity, and resilience continues to spread and ripple out through our nation and the globe.
Black Swan events like Superstorm Sandy show us what we’re made of. But only in the months that follow do we have the opportunity to make something of ourselves and our world that embodies the best in us—and beyond.