How Crises Reveal Who We Are

I don’t know if you’ve read the news, but I continue to hear about the aftermath of the tsunami that struck Japan months ago. One story hit me like a…uh…tsunami.

According to ABC news, “The earthquake that walloped Japan left much of its coastline ravaged, but left one thing in place: the Japanese reputation for integrity.  In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets found in the debris, containing $48 million in cash. More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along Japan’s tsunami-ravaged coast have also been hauled to police centers by volunteers and search and rescue crews. Inside those safes officials found $30 million in cash. One safe alone contained the equivalent of $1 million.

The National Police Agency says nearly all the valuables found in the three hardest hit prefectures, have been returned to their owners. The fact that these safes were washed away, meant the homes were washed away too,” he said. “We had to first determine if the owners were alive, then find where they had evacuated to.”

This all reminded me of something I learned as a twenty-something, after fires raged through a California region, not far from my home. Looters and illegal aliens rummaged through what was left and stole all that was salvageable. Many were caught later. Hmmm. What a different story than the recent one in Japan. The lesson? Tragedies and crises don’t necessarily forge our character—but they do reveal our character. When times are tough, people do what is inside of them already. In good times, we, as humans, are very good at covering up our dark side and hiding behind pleasantries and facades of decency. Far too often, we act like victims in times of crisis and feel we deserve a break or some special favor.

I am not suggesting that Japanese people are perfect and Americans are evil. It’s just that we do what we’re conditioned to do. Consider this: as of now, a total of $78 million was returned to owners in the wake of Japan’s catastrophe.

So here are my questions for you:

  1. How did you react to the last “tough time” you experienced?
  2. What are you modeling for the young people around you?
  3. What lessons could an observer make from watching you live your life?

I’d like to actually hear your response to these questions. I can’t speak for you, but I’m thinking…I hope a Japanese person is near me if I ever lose my money.


How Crises Reveal Who We Are