Bob Denny: Life after a major disaster

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 12:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 12:21 p.m.

You have probably heard the saying: “If it doesn't kill you, it'll make you stronger.” Major disasters like the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the West Texas factory explosion, offer us a challenge and an opportunity to build character and to find the right ways to respond. We want perspective and direction — how to think about what happened, and what to feel, and what to do about it. It takes all of us; not just a village. This a time to come together, not to be polarized or divided. We can all work together to make it better.

It's not what happens to you; it's what you do about it that counts. How are we responding as Americans? It's okay to feel sadness, fear, and anger. It's human. We respond to our feelings. We search the television news because we need to assess the problems, and ponder what to do. We can use these times to learn more, and replace our fears with a facing of the problems, and look for appropriate responses. We sympathize, we grieve. We feel angry or vengeful. It's natural. We respond to our feelings by gathering together, sharing feelings, and carrying on with our lives.

What can we do? We need to carry on. We don't let our sadness turn to despair. We don't let our anger turn to hatred or to revenge. Instead, we support the victims, and continue on with our lives. We go back to work, we get strength from our friends and our groups. We show good character. We seek answers to what happened, and we seek reasonable justice instead of revenge. We do that because Americans are good people; law-abiding and fair. We strive to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We continue to gather together with courage. We attend and participate in our big events — basketball, baseball, golf tournaments, and team sports. We find extra strengths from the pride we feel in knowing the way we choose to deal with our problems. We stand up and proudly sing the “Star Spangled Banner” in Boston, the place hardest hit. Neil Diamond leads Bostonians in their theme song, “Sweet Caroline.”

It helps me to remember: It's not what happens to you; it's what you do about it that counts. Tests like these bring out our true character as Americans. Let's continue to be the best we can be, the land of the free and the home of the brave, and to be the shining example for the rest of the world.

Bob Denny teaches psychology at Florida Gateway College and is a licensed mental health therapist in Florida.

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