As you may have heard, there has been a bit of flooding around Queensland. Thanks to everyone who has dropped me a line to see if we’re fine – we are. Our house is on a bit of a ridge in Annerley and so we weren’t effected, though many around us were.
There have been some pretty startling images in the media, but I think the most amazing thing has been the way the community has come together. Let me share a few stories with you …
As the flood waters were rising the number of volunteers was apparently so huge that, every time I checked online, sandbagging depots were reporting that they were full and didn’t want any more people to turn up to help.
On Saturday, the local school hall in MacGregor was filled to the brim with volunteers.
The volunteers in the hall were of all ages and from all walks of life, and well-represented by residents from nearby immigrant communities, including Moorooka (Middle Eastern and African) and Sunnybank (Chinese and Southeast Asian).
A woman brought her whole family, including two adolescent sons, out from Loganholme to help.
A young couple from China, here on their honeymoon, volunteered for flood clean-up.
Once we got out to the sites, it took us about a km of walking and an hour of asking before we could find a job to do. Every householder was telling us that we weren’t needed, because there were about 20 volunteers inside already.
A family with two young daughters, probably too young to be over 14 and able to help out directly, set up a market-stall-type tent at the corner of one badly affected street. They had a real well-thought out and professional-looking operation with trestle tables, eskies, a gas cannister and a barbeque running, and they were handing out sandwiches, sausages, really nice home-made cakes, and drinks to volunteers. The set-up looked so professional I asked who they were representing. The woman replied that they weren’t here on any organisation’s behalf, they had just decided to do this as a family.
At the hottest part of the day, a woman was walking through the streets lugging a wheeled esky filled with ice and ice-cold water and drinks for volunteers.
I saw a woman and her teen son get on the bus returning, and I noticed that they looked really sad. It took me a couple of seconds to realise why; their clothes and boots were all clean. They must have got a late bus out, and missed-out on a chance to help. They were the only frowning people I saw, and that includes the home owners who’d seen all their stuff turn into muddy piles of rubbish on the curb.
My buddy received a call from her partner saying that he was going to take a sleep, and I asked her about it. He is a helicopter driver and had been working for 5 days out in the Lockyer Valley with only short naps, and so was due for a scheduled break. She said that the hours had been very hard on him, but then he wouldn’t want it any other way.
On Sunday, only volunteers who could do heavy lifting were called. Many of those volunteers turned up very early and lined up at the gate to wait to do their bit. And again, the response was overwhelming, even with the restrictive guidelines on who should come. So many volunteers came that hundreds of burly folk who had turned up at the recommended time were eventually told to go home.
These stories are small anecdotes, and I don’t know how impressive they sound to you compared to some spectacular stories coming out of the newspapers But perhaps because I’m personally connected to them, they speak really powerfully to me. We will never be able to totally prevent the random disasters that a chaotic and indifferent universe throws at us, but we can to some extent control how we respond to them. And I feel that I’ve seen it demonstrated here, that our instinctive human nature is to respond with compassion and a helping hand.