Two natural disasters have struck Germany, the first painfully long and persistent, the second short and devastating, but both with effects far beyond the day.

Both have something else in common.

Due to the disaster of the pandemic as well as the flood disaster in the cities and villages of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, German society is getting to know each other anew, and perhaps differently than one thought.

The willingness to help in the floodplains is enormous. Whole “helper cities” emerged overnight and an emergency aid infrastructure was created in a short space of time. The volunteer support is so great that it is literally overwhelming and needs to be stopped. The access roads to some places in the flood areas were congested at the weekend - not because gawkers had set out, but people who wanted to lend a hand. The first aid deliveries had to be slowed down because the warehouse at the Nürburgring was overcrowded within a few days. In the affected places themselves, however desperate the situation may be in many places, there is hope in view of neighborhood help, in view of the large number of volunteers and in view of the municipal structures geared towards emergency aid.

Fire brigades, clubs, charities, aid organizations and municipalities are the backbone of these networks of small-scale solidarity. The focus of the donation, however, is volunteering, the institution that has a word in its name that has gone out of fashion. But who would deny that it is an honor to offer help to those in need - without asking long questions or pointing to others. The unselfish commitment is not only a pillar of every civil society in times of need. Volunteering, whether in a public function or in voluntary service, turns out to be the soul of this society. When it all collapses, you can rely on it.

The focus of helpfulness will one day have to shift from this sphere to another, that of the state.

That shouldn't obscure the fact that it is not the state that can do everything better.

Every civil society initiative is initially more nimble and more direct than state activity is capable of.

Even now, however, there would be no progress in the disaster areas if the two did not mesh.

After all, the need to help does not come from the fact that the state or the “system” has failed and failed.

The reason is that hardly anyone wants to evade the privately organized and state-supported willingness to help, which can be accessed anytime and anywhere in Germany at the push of a button.

Anti-social behavior of a few

This relativizes an image of our society in which egoism, hedonism or unrestrained individualization dominate. They may belong and bloom their strange blossoms. Like now, when helpers and rescue workers are attacked, an anti-social behavior of a few, which is one of the abysses of our time. Maybe this is because weird brains started the first conspiracy theories about what caused the catastrophe. This is sensational, but does not deserve the attention like the thousands of helpers who pick up a shovel without thinking about themselves but first of all about their neighbor.

This contrast is all too familiar from the other catastrophe, the corona pandemic.

The natural catastrophe, the consequences of which will be as great as the climatically favored devastation in the Eifel, Sauerland and Ruhr areas, similarly harbors a willingness to help that is selfless.

You don't even have to pick up a shovel for that.

In this case, solidarity is expressed not only in the discipline that the recurring lockdown required, and not only in the work for the sick and for groups at risk.

It is expressed above all in the willingness to protect yourself and others permanently, even if going to the vaccination center may be associated with a queasy feeling.

Everyone should be able to demand that much volunteer work.

The fact that it is so difficult to mobilize such overwhelming support for the fight against corona as it is for the population in the disaster areas shows the light and dark sides of a society that does not want to and must not be forced to be happy.

Indifference to the common good, cheap criticism of the state, sacrifice for the neighbor, spontaneous action against the disaster, mortal danger in emergency aid, all of these are sometimes closely related.

In the catastrophe, however, German society is more productive, more stable and more admirable than it is sometimes attested to.

She will have to show this face more often in the years to come.

Because the signs of the times are such that even normal times could demand an effort that some people find abnormal.