My heart goes out to communities in our country that are in the process of creating a new normal (for themselves) in the wake of a violent attack. That challenge confronted the Kenyan and American community in 1998 after al Qaeda blew up the U.S. embassy in downtown Nairobi, killing 215 and injuring thousands more. This is some of what I learned:
Two skills and one value are essential. The skills are 1) asking powerful questions and 2) listening to the answers. When the hormones cut off and the honeymoon phase ended, life was just plain hard. The only way I knew to work in sync with the community as we moved ahead was to ask questions and pay attention to the answers. When I became ambassador, a mentor wrote “take care of your people and the rest will take care of itself.” He was right.
Grow your team (community) from day one around meaningful goals, i.e. goals that come from bottom up, not just top down. Focus on workplace and community activities that require shared goals and teamwork. That we did so in times of smaller challenges fostered the trust and resilience that made recovery possible.
Nurture the culture of leadership you have created and mind your own business. Much of that business will be directed by your team (community). Your business is likely to include influencing outside actors in order overcome bureaucratic obstacles and provide appropriate assistance.
Take care of your people and get expert help. Understand that phases of recovery include falling apart and getting up again, moving forward and stalling. Eventually, getting up becomes more frequent and falling apart becomes less severe. Confronting unhelpful behaviors among traumatized individuals is hard and necessary. Mental health practitioners can help.
Take care of yourself – body, mind and spirit. The body needs movement; the mind needs distraction; the spirit needs tending.
Persevere. The process of trying increases the odds of success and serves as great comfort should you fail and the worst happens.
Understand what it means to accompany. You cannot take away others’ suffering but you can build relationships and environments that promote well-being.
It takes a strong community to walk the path of despair and eventually see hope. It takes action from members like you and me.