Building Community as a Preparedness Strategy

neighbor helping neighborLast week our close-knit neighborhood experienced a terrifying event. A fast-moving wildfire swept through, burned one house to the ground, destroyed several barns and outbuildings, leveled fences, and torched majestic trees. Miraculously no lives were lost, either human or livestock.

The older couple whose house was destroyed has been reeling in shock – not just the shock of losing everything they own (except their livestock), but the shock of how strongly everyone has rallied around to help them in their time of need.

Within hours the couple had a temporary place to live, and people donated water tanks, bales of hay, and fencing materials to make sure their livestock was kept safe and comfortable. The local Mennonite church made plans to build the couple a permanent shelter before the snow flies. A GoFundMe page was set up and publicized, and donations poured in.

“We’re so blessed,” the wife kept repeating in something of a daze.

It’s not easy to count blessings when faced with a devastating loss, but that’s precisely what this couple is doing. What they’re experiencing is the power of community. Until it’s called into action, the power of community is subtle, almost invisible. Helping fix a flat tire here; sharing garden produce there. But the threads that connect one neighbor to another become ties that bind in times of crisis. Those ties strengthen and tighten, forming a woven fabric of incredible beauty and protection.

Preparedness has been likened to a three-legged stool. One leg is supplies; the second leg is skills and knowledge; and the third leg is community. A three-legged stool never wobbles, but if one leg is taken away, it crashes.climbing mountain together

That third leg, community, is often forgotten or ignored in the preparedness movement where too many people think they can go it alone. As our neighbors who lost their home have learned, community is hugely important, especially in time of crisis.

The Plain People long ago learned there is strength in numbers. By teaming up and combining skills and willing hands, far more can be accomplished than going it alone. It’s the definition of synergy, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

But community is not something that can be created after the fact, or demanded without contributing. The couple who lost their home has spent decades helping others. Their kindness and generosity is known far and wide. When tragedy hit, people fell over themselves to help out however they could. In short, this couple is reaping what they have sown. No wonder they’re counting their blessings.

Our nation is facing an increasingly complicated future, and preparedness has become mainstream for good reason. But in trying to build their three-legged stool, people often obsess over supplies, give a passing thought to skills, and dismiss community as unimportant. This is a mistake.

Community is critical, but it takes time to develop. The community would not have been nearly as supportive of this couple’s tragedy had they not spent years weaving those threads of friendship into a beautiful tapestry.

In short, don’t forget about the third leg of preparedness – community – if you don’t want your stool to topple. You never know when you’ll need it.