The devastation we have seen from nature in the past few years is mind numbing when you think about it all at once. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Hurricanes. Floods. And this spring in the USA, we have seen historic destruction and loss of life from tornadoes.
Being a fourth generation Kansan, tornadoes are part of the landscape. The Wizard of Oz jokes get old from my coastal friends, but let’s face it, we live in a place dubbed Tornado Alley so what do you expect?
When I was ten years old, I lived in Topeka, Kansas and my family had just moved to the southwest edge of town near a big hill named Burnett’s Mound. Native American legend had it that as long as there was nothing constructed on Burnett’s Mound, the big hill would protect Topeka from tornadoes. I guess since I was living in a house built on the lower slope of the hill the protection clause was null and void.
And sure enough, on June 8, 1966 a killer tornado formed outside of town and powered its way over Burnett’s Mound and cut a 20-mile diagonal swath from southwest Topeka to the city limits on the northeast side. Our new house suffered some damage but we were far enough outside the core that we avoided the complete destruction that occurred just a quarter mile from our house.
The images from Tuscaloosa and Joplin are vivid reminders of that day nearly 45 years ago. But what I also remember vividly is the way the city of Topeka came together and didn’t let nature’s dark side cut a permanent swath through the real heart of the city.
The people of Tuscaloosa and Joplin and smaller communities like Reading, Kansas that was virtually destroyed the day before the Joplin tornado will show the same spirit as we did in Topeka in the 1960’s and the city of Greensburg, Kansas has demonstrated in the last four years.
May 4, 2007, the city of Greensburg was completely destroyed by a tornado. I think what that city has accomplished is one of the greatest examples of a community coming together in history. They not only are rebuilding their town on the plains of Kansas, they built a true community of the future making their name of Greensburg more than just a name. As they put it – “Rebuilding Greensburg: Stronger, Better, Greener.”
While this is an almost unbearably tough time for the citizens of Joplin, Tuscaloosa and Reading as well as so many other places across the globe, let’s shine a little light on everyone with the example of Greensburg, Kansas.
As I think about the work we do in cause marketing, I want to use Greensburg as a shining example of what great cause programs should be all about. At the end of the day, it isn’t about a halo for the corporate brand and it isn’t just about raising more money for a cause. The only result that matters is that the world becomes a better place because people got together and worked to make it better. That’s a cause we can all rally around.
Like Topeka, Greensburg, New Orleans and Japan - Joplin, Tuscaloosa and the citizens of other locations hit by nature's wrath will show us how to do it now.