The Kindness of Strangers

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Brisbane Floods - Gailes Queensland

Last week the disaster of the Queensland floods became evident, and slowly into next week stories will emerge. Stories of courage, of despair, of hopelessness, of survival. The stories which have a universal truth to them will be of the kindness of strangers.

Parts of Queensland have been badly devastated. Not only Brisbane. More than Toowoomba and Ipswich. Small towns, small suburbs, ordinary lives. My sister lives in Brisbane, and she and her family and friends are all safe. My mother is staying with them at the moment. Not everyone is underwater, but many people’s lives have been gutted by the flood.

Disruption to business activity will be significant in some areas. The business district, the mining communities, farmers and livestock. Seeing the speed at which people rally when help is required is wonderful. Measuring the dislocation and loss should not only be measured in economic terms. There is a human dimension which is not as easily measured. Philanthropy is often equated to money, but it’s true definition of ‘caring for humankind’ extends far beyond this. Social capital always trumps financial capital in the long run.

I rang Volunteering Queensland earlier today (Saturday 14 January) to see if I might be useful helping out given my past experience in disaster relief in many different areas and situations through my Army service. They have been overwhelmed by more than 60,000 people stepping forward to volunteer. That is good news. People looking after their neighbours, especially those who are complete strangers.

Creative solutions to problems are important. Money helps, but it is a tool to be used. It needs to be effectively deployed. There are some parallels with the question of aid and extreme poverty. The parallels sort of end there- there is no comparison to 24,000 children dying daily.

Even so, people are in need. How can we help? Will we help?

I am hatching a plan for a lunch to be held on Thursday in Sydney. If you want to get involved to help out, please shoot me a response or ping me on facebook. My friend Jikky the other day came to me to ask where she might donate a big box of dolls she wanted to give to someone before she left Australia and flew home. That was before the floods. But maybe it is the seed of a constructive way forward.

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4 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

    Fay said:
    January 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    My son and his flatmates lost the lot, along with my daughter’s stuff waiting to be sent to London (they didn’t have valuable stuff but lots of special things they loved) – but he’s in there cleaning up with his mates – he features in smh.com.au in the Qld floods pix – he’s in pic 2 and his room is pic 8 – everyone seems to be helping each other and getting through it which is good. I suspect there is going to be a bit of a paradigm shift in a lot of those affected by it, hopefully for the better.

      10citybridgerun said:
      January 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      I think disaster and misfortune matters and deserves to be cared about, regardless of the situation. I have reflected a lot since I wrote this post: it is less about what is the ‘greater’ need, and more about how other concerns get more exposure at the expense of others. That is a wonderful picture you painted of your son and his mates sticking together, and really sad to hear about your daughter’s possessions.

    Fay said:
    January 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    And of course I know they’re very lucky they’re alive but everyone will grieve some things gone. Along with their sense of security and safety in their homes – but perhaps they will gain something as well. And what other way is there to look at it, anyway.

      10citybridgerun said:
      January 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      What we do with these experiences will be the important legacy. We can use them to shape a better world. ‘What does that world look like?’ is a question worth each of us asking.

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