The Kindness of Strangers
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.