If you are a summer blockbuster movie buff you have no doubt heard of and more than likely seen the romantic comedy Trainwreck, starring breakout comedic actress Amy Schumer as a journalist whose personal life is nothing short of a disaster.
If you aren’t a summer cinema aficionado then I am guessing you probably have heard of the film as a result of it tragically serving as the backdrop of a human train wreck in the form of yet another mass shooting in a public venue at a movie theatre in Louisiana.
Even as I write this I am finding it almost unreal to be mentioning summer movies and mass shootings in the same space. It feels like an actual train wreck.
I must confess that most of my movie watching now occurs via Netflix and other streaming services on my computer but a couple of my girlfriends and I had made plans weeks ago to see Trainwreck in an effort to escape reality and just laugh our heads off for an hour or two.
After the news of the shooting, I paused momentarily to consider if I wanted to go to the theater at all much less to see the same movie just a day after the tragedy. I decided to go. I didn’t want to let an act of violence have too much power over me.
Oddly my friends and I did not bring the shooting up on the way to the film, or in the concession line or when we took our seats. But in the darkness of the theatre during the previews of coming attractions I could not help looking around and wondering what my plan of action would be if I was faced with shots fired in this dark confined space.
As the thought entered my mind, I spoke out loud to my friends but also to the universe at large reflecting on how odd it was to be thinking of an escape plan from something as simple as a movie.
I am sure no one sitting in the theatre in Louisiana a couple of weeks ago ever considered what was heading their way in the form of a single gun man.
That’s the thing about both literal and figurative train wrecks, most of the time we don’t see them coming or if we do see them on the horizon we feel helpless to intervene.
Clearly, mass shootings are extreme cases of unexpected violence. But we can all point to both personal and community train wrecks we have experienced or witnessed.
How do we prepare? How do we react? How do we move forward?
In the world of philanthropy and charitable giving we are faced with these questions and in many cases tasked with finding solutions to the proverbial train wrecks that impact both individuals and the community as a whole.
Hungry families, childhood cancer, gun violence in neighborhoods, challenges to our Southwest Florida water quality, human trafficking are all train wrecks in our region. But we are not without hope and resources and this is where philanthropy can play a role.
Some generous neighbors establish funds to help meet specific needs. I am awestruck by the community’s efforts to build the new Galisano Children’s Hospital so Southwest Florida kids can get the vital medical services they need right in our backyard. Other donors provide funding specifically to take care of the unexpected needs that may arise.
The Good Samaritan Fund at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in partnership with the United Way provides emergency funding to individuals and families facing the unexpected train wrecks of life.
And I will never forget when Hurricane Charlie hit our region or when the floodwaters rose in Bonita Springs and the community rallied with money and support to rebuild lives and neighborhoods.
We can’t always prepare but we can react.
It never fails that in moments of greatest challenge, the stories of incredible hope and resilience emerge. The congregants at the Charleston church shooting offering forgiveness to the shooter, stunning the nation with their grace. A teacher jumping in front of a friend at the theater to divert the gunman’s bullet, a stranger offering a kidney to a failing child or just a simple act of heroic kindness in everyday life.
In the movies any train wreck can be solved in 90 minutes. In a community it takes time and an ongoing commitment to prepare when we can and then react with compassion, hope and generosity when the train wrecks of life surprise us.
If you want more information on being part of solutions to our community’s challenges, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @listeninginSWFL.
Sarah Owen is the president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.