People Coming Together During Times of Strife
Sometimes, when the going gets tough, the idiom “It’s every man for himself”
is thrown around, implying no one will help others in their time of need. Other times, families and individuals are depicted coming together into larger units, almost as if they are one big family or community working for the common good. John Steinbeck describes this latter scenario at length in Chapter 17 of The Grapes of Wrath
The migrants on the road to California traveled independently during the day, but at night “they huddled together; they talked together; they shared their lives, their food, and the things they hoped for in the new country” (193). As a result, if twenty families camped together at night, “the twenty families became one family, the children were the children of all… the loss of home became one loss, and the golden time in the West was one dream” (193). Likewise, the Joads adopted the Wilsons into their traveling expedition after the Wilsons lent a hand when Grampa died in their tent during Chapter 13. Once you go through an experience like that together, you’re like family and you feel obligated to look out for one another.
The human inclination to help others in need is something that evidences itself in a plethora of situations. Whether it is a death, a divorce, a recession, or something else entirely, the situation is more likely to improve and seem less hopeless if others are empathetic and work together to dig those who are suffering out of an abyss (emotional, financial, or otherwise). Even if it is done with the hope and reinforcing one’s own “good karma,” the important thing is that there are times that people overlook their own needs and desires for a few minutes in the effort of making others have an easier time. I recently lost a very close family member and thus I witnessed this phenomenon firsthand. Friends, family, and people I didn’t even know dropped what they were doing in the initial time afterward and went out of their way to stop by my family’s home to deliver us freshly prepared meals and offer their support in general.
Human nature is often condemned for leaning toward the selfish side. However, people do harbor the ability to genuinely care about others. As the migrant families on the road during the Depression found out, sometimes people join hands and work together, play together, cry together, and share each other’s burdens. Even if it is for a transient period of time, there are moments when the world isn’t comprised of 6.96 billion
distinct individuals looking out only for their own survival. Sometimes, if you take the time to really look, families join together with others to create one collective group in an effort to leave no one behind. And in a story of humanity, that makes all the difference in determining how people are perceived.