Since the very beginning of RadJoy, we have asked ourselves how we might respond to situations like the horrendous tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma yesterday. These are real emergencies that take lives, change lives, displace people, completely upend life as it's known.
We came to realize that you can't ask people to look for and make beauty at a place too soon. First they simply have to get their bearings, find out if their loved ones are okay, if their home still stands. They need days, perhaps weeks to figure out what to do next. You can't possibly say, "Go make something beautiful at the site of your shattered home" when everything a family owned is gone.
What is important in the beginning, however, what is essential at that raw and terrible time, is simply giving to others with as much generosity and compassion as possible and, at the same time, to receive generosity and compassion when it is offered. Such acts, given and received, are immensely touching under drastic, tragic circumstances. I find I continue to be moved by the kindness with which a policeman broke the news to me that my beloved brother had died. Kindness helps people survive. In New York, after Superstorm Sandy, restaurant owners and grocers put free food on the street, and neighbors with electricity made it possible for those without to recharge their phones and computers.
After a while (but perhaps sooner than we even think possible!) we can start going out of our way to find and make beauty through larger gestures, more creative, more all-encompassing actions. The pilgrimage that the people in Joplin made through the path of the tornado there on the one-year anniversary, for instance, the tree they painted, the way they changed the name of the school from jOPlin to hOPe. In Tuscaloosa, after the tornado there in 2010, a group called Beauty Amid Destruction created an art exhibition along the path of the storm.
Radical Joy pierces most poignantly during very Hard Times. And no matter how much we are hurt, we can give it and receive it, just a little, sometimes a lot.
Photo above of Moore, Oklahoma after the tornado of May 20, 2013 by Steve Gooch, AP, Huffington Post