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FROM COMMUNITY TRAGEDY TO COMMUNITY STRENGTH BUILDING LOVE
It’s easy to get caught up in personal drama and woes and forget to look out for others. The tendency to focus inward is part of human nature, and, unfortunately, it can take something devastating to remind us of what really matters. This past summer, a teacher from my youngest daughter’s school drowned while chaperoning a class trip. He taught my daughter last year when she was in third grade, so I had the opportunity to meet in a few times. I won’t use names, to respect his family’s privacy, but he was a good man and a highly respected member of the community. His loss was devastating. The trip was to a wildlife refuge in a remote location at the beach. Although it was a clear day, the waters were rough. Also, while there were apparently red flags up at other locations, there were no such warnings at the location where the trip took place. Unfortunately, some of the boys decided to go swimming, not realizing there was a rip current under the waves. One of the boys started to struggle and, because there were no lifeguards on the beach, the teacher and a bystander rushed in to save him. The boy and the bystander survived, but this teacher was pulled under by the rip current and was lost. The Coast Guard quickly began calling it a recovery mission when it became clear he hadn’t survived. Many volunteers from the
community got involved with the search, my family included. Everyone dropped everything to help. It was extremely important for us to find his body so he could be put to rest with a proper burial. People came in from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Georgia to look for him. Volunteers walked up and down the beach or searched the waters in their personal boats. Someone even brought in helicopters and a private plane. A representative from the Coast Guard remarked that they’d never seen anything like it, the outpouring of support. In the face of this tragedy, it was inspiring to have so many people come together to help bring closure to this man and his family. The Coast Guard called off the search after two days, but friends and family continued the recovery mission. Five days after he went missing, his body was found. We were finally able to hold a funeral, and I’ll never forget seeing the pain and grief of this man’s wife and their five kids. To have a family member yanked away from you like that is truly devastating. But I’ll also never forget just how many people came together and answered the call to help. The whole community came out to the funeral, including 40,000 people who attended via conference call. A fund was started to help this man’s family and has since raised almost $1 million.
stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing outward. Love is built from giving it to other people; that’s how we create more love in the world. This isn’t new, but witnessing a community tragedy turn into a story of community strength really brought the message home. In the face of tragedy, it’s okay to feel pain and depression. The big question is how we respond to tragedy. Do you turn inward, cut people out, dwell on your pain, and fall back on harmful coping mechanisms? Or do you reach out to others who are in pain, donate on behalf of someone who’s lost, and try to make a difference? Terrible things happen every day, but in the aftermath, there are always people trying to help. We are called upon to do things for others, and it’s by answering the call that we become better human beings.
There is a man I respect greatly who often talks about how much we can do when we If you belong to a union or other labor-related group and want to schedule my presentation at your group’s speaking arrangement, you can do so by calling 888-667-8295 . The presentation is free of charge, offers important information for taking appropriate action in Virginia workers’ compensation cases, and everyone in attendance gets a free copy of my book, “10 Traps and Lies That Can Ruin Your Virginia Workers’ Compensation Case.” Education is the best way to protect yourself from making a mistake. Call now, before it’s too late. –Joseph Miller
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