The blessing in the curse

Feb
1
2013
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
0
Comments

Dear Friends,

Most people completely miss the biggest opportunity they will ever have in their lives for great and lasting change: the times of extreme adversity.

They focus on the immediate carnage — the lost property, the displacement in their lives, the cost in dollars and cents — and not the blessing of the curse – of  being propelled into a completely uncharted territory.

Alphabet City under water

Several days after Hurricane Sandy hit lower Manhattan, leaving most of Avenue C in the East Village under water, Zachary Mack, co-owner of Alphabet City Wine Company, published a blog in Forbes magazine about his experiences of waking up to see his shop under water. No business along his street had been spared.   ‘As someone who saw it in person, the sight was at once surreal and horrifying,’ he wrote four days after the storm.  Yet despite all of this, my spirits have never been so high.’ 

Within minutes of Zachary’s arriving at his wrecked store on the Tuesday, October 30, the day after the Con Ed transformer exploded, a group of three regulars showed up with flashlights and trash bags.  ‘What do you need us to do?  How can we help you?’ they said. 

Dear Friends,

Most people completely miss the biggest opportunity they will ever have in their lives for great and lasting change: the times of extreme adversity.

They focus on the immediate carnage — the lost property, the displacement in their lives, the cost in dollars and cents — and not the blessing of the curse – of  being propelled into a completely uncharted territory.

Alphabet City under water

Several days after Hurricane Sandy hit lower Manhattan, leaving most of Avenue C in the East Village under water, Zachary Mack, co-owner of Alphabet City Wine Company, published a blog in Forbes magazine about his experiences of waking up to see his shop under water. No business along his street had been spared.   ‘As someone who saw it in person, the sight was at once surreal and horrifying,’ he wrote four days after the storm.  Yet despite all of this, my spirits have never been so high.’ 

Within minutes of Zachary’s arriving at his wrecked store on the Tuesday, October 30, the day after the Con Ed transformer exploded, a group of three regulars showed up with flashlights and trash bags.  ‘What do you need us to do?  How can we help you?’ they said. 

Command central

Before long, Alphabet City Wine Company, open for business by candlelight, had become a headquarters, where neighbors and other business owners met and made plans. 

Strangers offered dry clothing to those who were soaking wet; chefs coordinated vast neighborhood cookouts to feed those locals in need for free; groups gathered around a battery-powered radio listening to 1010WINS for updates.

One local brought in two giant Tupperware containers containing food cooked by his Upper West Side aunt for his downtown neighbors. Edi from the Edi & the Wolf deli next door brought over a hot meal of spatzle with ham; when abread delivery managed to arrive, Keedick Coulter, who owns Bobwhite Lunch Counter nearby, immediately handed out his rolls and buns to everyone on the block. Morale was higher than it had been before the storm. 

Every morning, the neighborhood would gather around candlelit tables in Edi’s deli, drink hot chocolate and spread out the shared tools and formulate the day’s plans: who’d find gas for those cars still operational; who needed to drive people to find shelter; who’s shop was most in need of generators; who would be assigned the task of finding batteries or candles. 

By the following day, Zachary writes, the residents had created a makeshift community center.  Anyone in need of food was invited in, to sample Edi’s food he’d had shipped in from his other restaurant uptown.

New connections

‘Neighbors were meeting for the first time, passing information.  Kids were playing with one another.  People were shouting out random bits of news from their incoming texts or Twitter feeds.  One recurring conversation was the possibility of holding a neighborhood fundraiser for Alphabet City Beer Co., to help it recoup its massive losses.

‘And probably best of all: locals installed a bike-powered cell phone charging station.  Complete strangers sat and pedaled to give their neighbors the juice they needed to get back up and running,’ Zachary wrote.

Children forlornly walked around in Halloween costumes, realizing there would be no trick or treating this year;  seeing this some of the residents ran over to local shops to buy candy bars to hand out.

Being neighbourly

When the basement of one of Zachary’s neighbors again filled up with water, a swarm of locals stopped working on their own repair jobs and swarmed around him, brooms and shovels in hand. 

‘Come on man, we’re neighbors,’ said one of them. ‘We help each other out.’

Most astonishing of all, people were communicating with other, instead of their cell phones. 

‘Whatever preconceived notions others have about the spirit of community on New York City, I know that I’ll never forget the way I feel today,’ wrote Zachary.  ‘Alphabet City has long been my home, but it’s now given me a new sense of self. 

‘The people sitting next to me in Brooklyn tell me they look at the news and they sense desperation.  I’m here to tell you that things have never looked or felt better on Avenue C.’

I love this story because it is an object lesson in the power of adversity to bridge divides and teach us all about the most important aspect of our lives:  our connectedness

The essence of any community is interdependence, and in our modern, isolated lives, we only get a glimpse of that during a crisis, whether 9/11 or Hurricane Sandy. 

I lived in Manhattan for my first eight years out of college.  I also remember that the most community-spirited times were the untoward:  the steamy August evening when the whole of Manhattan lost power, and we walked down flights of stairs with buckets to get fresh water from newly opened fire hydrants; the February morning when we woke up to a couple of feet of snow and took our skis over to slalom down vehicle-less Fifth Avenue.  Those were the times you forgot you were living in a little box in a town without pity, the times when we all were in this together.  

Engaging in sharing and teamwork during a crisis tends to transcend differences, because it emphasizes the very heart of humanity — we are all in this together. 

The rush of “we’re-all-in-this-together” elation that we feel actually allows us to resist difficulties, including pain. This offers proof of the old adage that there is power in numbers and also explains why we feel something extraordinarily akin to magic in groups working for a common purpose.

We move outside our own individuality and into the space of the Bond.

I look forward to seeing your Bond Pod unfold. 

Have a wonderful, intentional week.

Warmest wishes,

Lynne

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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