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In our opinion: Altruism in action: Saratoga Springs volunteers gave incredible effort

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Ethan Martin and other volunteers help Saratoga Springs flooding victims remove mud and water from their homes in Saratoga Springs Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

By any standards, the incredible volunteer effort last weekend in Saratoga Springs is as rare and remarkable a phenomenon as the sudden torrential rainstorm that sent rivers of mud toward hundreds of vulnerable homes.

The storm is evidence of nature's capricious power. The volunteer effort is evidence of a powerful ethic that binds a community in a safety net of indelible good will.

About 3,000 people spontaneously changed their holiday plans to labor in the service of homeowners overwhelmed by the mudslides. That number equates to about one volunteer for every household in the suburban hamlet on the shores of Utah Lake.

It was an army organized by civic and church leaders, but commissioned by altruism, defined by Merriam-Webster as "uncalculated consideration of, regard for, or devotion to others' interests sometimes in accordance with an ethical principle."

The principle at play in Utah County over the Labor Day weekend is the fundamental foundation of any strong community in which residents realize their bonds are more than geographic. The volunteers did not concern themselves with exactly whom they were helping, but only with the fact that people — regardless of their political, religious or other allegiances — needed help.

We have seen that phenomenon play out time and again in Utah whenever and wherever catastrophe strikes. That such a spirit of benevolence is common in our culture is worthy of our pride and nurturing.

This is particularly true at a time when our political discourse is so heated and so often divisive. For those who argue we are a people divided, the volunteers of Saratoga Springs offer a persuasive rebuttal. We may have our differences, but when the going is tough, we hang together.

There will be discussions as to whether the local government should or could have been better prepared for the mudslides after wildfires lay bare much of the landscape earlier this summer. Regardless, the fact is all of us are potentially in harm's way from any number of possible calamities.

That strangers will come to our aid in such circumstances is a source of comfort, as well as inspiration for us to also commit to the service of others.

The municipality of Saratoga Springs faces some serious challenges, and possibly more danger from unpredictable weather. The community of Saratoga Springs, by witness of what happened in the wake of the storm, will be just fine.

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