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Is a disaster required to produce civility?

tornado Parkersburg2008.jpg
Site of the Sinclair Elevator complex two miles east of Parkersburg, Iowa
Photo supplied by Pat Derdzinski, Butler County Extension Education Director

Natural disasters do bring out the best in the people.
It can be a tornado with 200 mile per hour winds as this one, a wildfire, flood, hurricane or earthquake.

It’s interesting that the high school in Parkersburg is where many are carting away the salvageable text books, athletic gear and other school paraphernalia. The destroyed community building is a center of attention. And the people who are directing the work seem to be the community leaders, those people who always care about others and are respected by the townspeople.

The word civility ties to city and society, to be good citizens and good neighbors.
So yes, sometimes it takes disasters to produce civility. We realize the material possessions of life don’t matter. The power or position we hold at work doesn’t matter.

To be alive, to belong to a community and to have caring leaders—those are the things that are important.


It's not just the big disasters, but the little, personal tragedies that tend to bring out the best in people too. When my mother died in 2003, I was amazed at how many friends and acquaintances sent sympathy cards, called and brought food. Their thoughtfulness helped me through a sad period. Before that time, I always wondered if simply sending a card in the midst of a monumental loss even mattered. Now I know these small gestures can make a big difference by connecting the solitary individual to a caring community.