"Jelly! We need more jelly!"

"Jelly! We need more jelly!"

Recent flooding has brought several things into sharp focus:  the fact of interdependence, the generosity of neighbors, and the need for fast, widespread communication that doesn’t necessarily require a working electrical system.  Social media, grassroots journalism, and smart phones are providing an unprecedented level of communication and easing the misery of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I live and work in the tiny town of Kingston Springs, Tennessee, just over the line from Nashville/Davidson County.  Geographically, it is divided from the rest of Cheatham County by the Harpeth River, no more so than when the river goes out of its banks.  Economically, ours is a bedroom community; many of its residents work and play in Nashville or are self-employed as artists, writers and musicians.  Philosophically, it’s populated with plenty of rugged individualists, lots of whom live in the woods or down a long driveway and enjoy the self-sufficiency of cable, satellite and cell phone communications. When the water started to rise, it became clear that we had a full-scale disaster on our hands.  Houses were washed away, and so were some people; at least one person is still missing.  Entire neighborhoods were turned into islands, with no way in or out except by boat.  Cable, phone and electricity went out.  Houses with as little as six inches of water—or as much as 12 feet—had to be gutted immediately.  No bathrooms, no food, no clean water.  No place to sleep and, for some, no place to go to work or even a change of clothes.  What happened next is nothing short of amazing. Volunteers flew into action.  Not just the Red Cross and Hands On Nashville, bless them (and please support them), but individuals, mom-and-pop businesses, and corporate giants.  Anyone with any ability to help in any way jumped in with food, clothes, demolition assistance, babysitting, appliances, chainsaws, coffee, and hugs.  And communication.  And social media made it possible. Facebook and Twitter are, for some, simply an entertaining way to keep up with friends, sort of a “remote intimacy” as it has been described.  For others, social media are either an annoyance, a mystery, a way to raise money or awareness for a cause, or a place to hawk one’s wares.  In the Great Flood of 2010, they were literally a lifeline.  Volunteer efforts were linked to each other, needs were broadcast in an instant, and help came immediately. Tweeting for Jelly The power of social media to mobilize an entire community in the midst of disaster was instantly recognized.  A blog was set up for the South Cheatham region (www.southcheatham.com) and it was publicized via Facebook and email.  Brenda Sparks, a volunteer at the relief center at Harpeth...

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