I didn't know Kayla or anything about her. But this week I found out that we were both members of the same social group, an organization that considers its members as all part of an extended family. I learned about Kayla from another friend in our local group who had known her and was deeply affected by her death. We honored her at a recent meeting, partly because she was one of us but also to help our friend deal with his grief.
This is not unusual for our group. We have developed customs for dealing with the loss of our members that allow us to share grief and, in that sharing, mitigate some of its sting. More importantly, we try to reach out to any member in need. We have a volunteer emergency coordinator who contacts any members affected by disasters, whether large or small, and identifies needs that are not being met locally. Sometimes we help on an organizational level by replacing lost regalia, documents, or equipment; sometimes it is on a personal level with gift cards and donations. Our northern California group recently raised over $30,000 to fund a much-needed operation for one of our members.
I also know that we are not the only organization that does this. Over the years, I have encountered many, many organizations that give aid in time of trouble. In such times, community becomes all important, reminding us that we are not alone and have friends who will help. As effective as Federal, state, and local governments are (and don't believe everything you read - we have one of the most sophisticated response systems in the world here), they can never come close to matching the support provided by close-knit communities in time of crisis. The government can only share material goods and services; community groups offer a sense of belonging, of being part of something good. We are at our very best when helping each other in crisis.