A Perspective on Global Community

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by Stephanie Koehler

I will start this by admitting that I don’t’ know anyone in Japan.  While I know a few people who have traveled there for various reasons, I have never been there myself and have no direct personal connection.  Yet, I continue to find myself distracted by the tragic loss of… everything…in the areas hit by the tsunami on March 11, 2011.

In the weeks that have followed, as I walk my dogs through my neighborhood, I try to imagine everything being wiped away…every house, every tree, every family, every dog, every cat, every car.  Everything.  The restaurants, the dry cleaners, the grocery stores, the banks, the farmer’s markets, the post office…everything for miles.  It remains impossible to imagine.

Like many of us, I was riveted to the TV reports and video accounts posted online.  My heart would ache with the images of people wandering alone through the rubble and mud looking to find evidence of life in the community they had known.  I would wait with anticipation for the story of survivors being reunited with loved ones – but they didn’t come. Just more silence.

As the images of Mother Nature’s wrath made way for images of a nuclear power plant in crisis – again, my mind went straight to the people.  Not just the people affected by the radiation leak (as I believe all Earth’s creatures will all pay the price for that in time) but with the 50 plant engineers who tirelessly worked to stabilize the situation.  The 50 men who knew they were making grave sacrifices for their community — but they never stopped.

It made me think about the things that define our global community — bringing into focus the many connections we have with the other inhabitants of this planet.

As I turned the key in my Toyota 4-Runner; put a new battery in my Blackberry; printed on my Canon printer; took photos with my Panasonic camera and watched the news on my Sony TV – I couldn’t help but think of the many Japanese hands and minds that made these luxuries possible.  As I watched the leaves bud on a neighbor’s Japanese maple tree and admired the elegant blossoms from the Japanese cherry trees in our nation’s capitol – I couldn’t help but recognize the natural beauty their land had offered this planet.  All of them a part of my community – regardless of the fact I had never met them or visited their homes.

The word “community” is generally defined as “a group of people having common interests or characteristics”.  So, as technology increasingly allows us to interact with and understand people and cultures far away – it also offers us an opportunity to increase our empathy and compassion.  Perhaps too – it offers us the opportunity to consider the impact our actions – both good and bad; large and small – have on the global community.