This past January would have marked the 21st year to go La Casa de Maria and The Center for Spiritual Renewal, a blessed retreat house that for decades has offered silence and reflection—plus meals from their garden. Each year I go away to be quiet and in the quiet. I think, pray, write, and hike. The center crouches at the base of a mountain range towering over Montecito, CA and offers views of the distant Channel Islands.
However, 2018 saw horrid fires and mudslides that literally turned homes into graveyards, roads into impassable mud rivers, and destroyed lives plus businesses. La Casa was not spared. The cottages, the chapel, the bookstore, the gardens, and more were literally crushed and /or swept away. Evacuations took place. The men and women who worked here have been let go. The few who remain must now turn their attention to question of rebuilding and major fundraising. It will take literally take millions to bring open this place of solace and spirit. This will not happen overnight
But that event—as personal as it was to me—was a mere foreshadowing of other disasters: fires that raged in Northern California, destroying lives and livelihood; a relentless water-drenched hurricane that destroyed lives and livelihoods in the Carolina's; the worst droughts on record that have forced water rationing in Cape Town South Africa.
And I started to write this, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit near Sulawesi, Indonesia. Shortly after, a tsunami with waves of up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) devastated the coast, leaving at least 1,200 people dead and dozens missing.
Devastation. Disruption. Disaster. Horrific. Horrible. Heartbreaking.
IS RECOVERY EVEN POSSIBLE? Such a hard question bears no fast answers. As your mind reels with the disasters, here are initial thoughts.
Do something. Action is the antidote for anxiety. If you are so moved by any of the events that seem to circle our globe, consider these actions:
Donate to reputable, boots-on-the-ground, organizations. CARE International has had a presence in Indonesia since 1967. You can see their efforts here. World Vision is on the ground and this link relates exactly what immediate actions are being taken. Save the Children and its local partner are frantically trying to protect and provide for so any children who have lost their parents. All three of these are global organizations committed to action.
Become aware and educated about potential causes of these disasters. While the Indonesia tragedy stems from its location on the “ring of fire”, the other disasters are made worse by accelerating climate change. Science Daily offers the most up to date global research on how these changes are impacting our economy and global stability.
Consider what positive insights can be drawn from these disasters. This is surely not to undercut the intense emotional and physical anguish but rather to say “what might we learn?”
La Case de Maria has discovered an outpouring of support they never knew they had. Ready hands are shoveling, cleaning, building, and praying. Site planning for construction now knows to take into account San Ysidiro Creek.
Warning systems for everything from fire to floods to earthquakes are getting closer examination with innovations and better practices under discussion.
Sustainability through corporate activism has replaced the vacuum of climate-denying governments. Fortune’s 2018 Change the World Issue highlighted such companies. Supermarket chain Kroger is simultaneously working to eliminate food waste and feed the hungry. Bank of America is helping to finance earth-friendly, low carbon business though green bonds. Adidas is recovering plastic from the oceans and converting it into shoes. In short, after the US withdrew from the Paris agreement on climate change, more than 900 businesses publicly pledged to fight global warming, including Fortune 500 companies from many industries.
Be grateful and recall your lessons from other seeming “disasters”. As I prepare to travel to Dublin to be one of the keynoters at Simmons International Conference, it’s humbling to be in the presence of others who have gone through so much and discovered strength and purpose. I know I will learn from Nobel Laureates like Malala Yousafzai and Leymah Gbowee to journalists Mariane Pearl and Lara Logan. They took a long view of events and have become models of resiliency and global significance.
I will share what I discover from these remarkable women.