In "The Open Boat," the correspondent's epiphany comes from the experience of coming face to face with death. At first, he is enraged by the unfairness of such an absurd death. He rages at fate and God, only to come to the conclusion that they live in a godless universe where men are subject to the forces of merciless nature. Nature does not care if someone lives or dies; nature is not concerned with fairness.
As he realizes death could be near, the correspondent comes to see how important relationships are. He becomes closer to the men in the boat, since all they have to rely on is one another. The men all encourage each other onward when they see the shore and must swim to it, for instance.
This realization is driven home when the men wash up on shore and are attended to by "men bringing blankets and clothes, and . . . women carrying coffee." This image of hospitality and brotherhood reinforces the idea that, in the face of an indifferent universe, people must cling to one another. If nature is indifferent, then humans mustn't be indifferent to one another.