Monday, August 10, 2009


I have heard the word "resilience" more in the last week than I ever have before. I don't know whether it is a sign of the times, a word that comes to mind when people think of their stock portfolios in the face of a difficult economy, or just a fad usage that will be gone next week. Regardless, I think it is a very powerful word, one that should be given some thought.

When I hear someone speak of resilience, other words spring to mind, like preparedness, self-reliance, and survival. Resilience is the ability to spring back, to roll with the punches, to maintain the ability to move forward even in the face of very difficult circumstances. Preparedness can help us build resilience. Survival is the goal of resilience.

I worry sometimes when I realize how dependent I have become on society, technology, and the all-knowing internet. I grew up in earthquake country and my family always had a container in the garage filled with emergency supplies - canned food, water, first aid kits, flashlights, etc. I carry a first aid kit in my car. My peace of mind relies on knowing that if something bad and unexpected happens, I have backup. I don't have to wait to be rescued. I can help rescue those around me who also need help.

Natural disasters and other violent occurrences remind me how valuable basic skills and knowledge can be. If we were all to lose power, sewer, water, and gas tomorrow, what would you do? Do you have what you need? For how long? What skills or knowledge do you have that would help you be more resilient? What are the consequences of not being prepared, and therefore, not being resilient, and potentially risking your survival?

It's hard to think about these kinds of things because we take so much of our surroundings for granted. Donald is very interested in reading about, watching, and playing through apocalypse scenarios, where ordinary people are put in extraordinary circumstances and have to figure out how to survive. We have discussed our backup plans, what we would do if something catastrophic happened, what our priorities would be, how we would change our lives in an instant to adapt and adjust to whatever new realities we faced. Of course, you can never be prepared for everything. Ideally, many prepared individuals would create a resilient community.

In a strange way, our decision to move in with Donald's parents was a move of resilience and survival. We weren't escaping from a dire situation like a massive natural disaster, but we were rearranging our priorities to adjust, to make sure that we were thinking about our long-term viability and survival. People do this more often than we realize, especially now that the economy is uncertain and jobs are hard to find. Families faced with a sick or disabled child have to adjust to a sudden new reality. Families faced with unemployment of one or both parents have to dig deep into their resources and re-prioritize.

Change forces us to adapt, and the more prepared and resilient we are in the face of change, the better we will survive whatever comes our way. How do we encourage each other to a higher level of resilience and self-reliance? How do we supplement or resist the assumption that we will be rescued (by local, state, or federal authorities)? What are the costs if we do not?

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