Today I witnessed first hand, devastation like nothing I had ever seen before in my lifetime, and human spirit that blew my mind. I, like many unaffected Aussies have been watching the images of the Queensland floods in disbelief, in horror, and in sadness. Please don’t get me wrong, I am a traveller, I have seen third world countries, I have been to war-torn countries, I know that we are not unique to catastrophic events in the world, however for the purpose of this blog story I am purely relating to Queensland only.
Today we put on our inappropriately bright white new gumboots and heading out to an affected street to assist with the clean up. The images on the television can not prepare you for the sights you see upon arriving in the flood affected areas. The brown sludge, the sights of utter destruction, and the smell are the immediate senses that overwhelm and disorientate you.
As we struggled in traffic, and were met with various road blocks on our journey, roadblocks manned by the Army, the Police, and the Fire’ees – this is not the Brisbane I know – This is a foreign world to me!. We parked a little way away from our destination in Fairfield (a house of a friend’s friend) we parked our car, unloaded our goods and walked in to our chosen street for clean up duties.
The walk there was surreal, untouched houses, green manicured lawns, and then we found our street, a brown, stinking mess of carnage. The stench was the first thing to clog up my nostrils and overwhelm me and then came the sadness of seeing people’s possessions lying out on their footpaths dumped in piles of trash like they are meaningless possessions; but these are people’s lives – displayed for all to see, dumped in the trash as though it means nothing.
These seemingly meaningless piles are people’s lives, displayed for us all to see, people’s hard work, people’s savings, people’s memories disregarded on the sidewalk.
How do you begin to explain your feelings arriving into such a scene when your own house and suburb remains untouched? How can I comprehend arriving at the house I am helping out at where the water came up to the roof, and our job for today was to gut the entire inside of their house?
I arrived back to my own house and tried to possibly comprehend doing what I did today to my own home. I stood in a stranger’s home, after ripping their house apart, and tossing the contents on the road and tried to appreciate the gravity of the fact, that I was only in one house, in one street in a state where 75% of it is in natural disaster and tried to understand the enormity of this event.
Throughout all of this I saw no tears, no anger, no frustration. I saw determination, I saw a togetherness, I saw human spirit and kindness that moved me to tears.
While every house in the street I was in had workers covered in mud, there were people coming through with baked goods, with sandwiches, with cold drinks, people who are trying to help in any way that they can. People whose hearts are hurting, people with kindness in their souls who are fortunate in the fact that their houses are untouched and who want to help.
People like me, and quite possibly people who feel like me, like they have to and they need to help, but feel as though they are never really doing enough, and will do whatever little thing they can to make a difference and make someone elses world a little better. People like me, who have lost nothing, and need to give to someone else in need.
I have never felt so proud to be an Aussie like I have felt today. I have never felt so connected to people I have never met before than I did today. I have never seen acts of human kindness before in my life, and I only hope I can live my life, witnessing such acts of kindness and sincerity again.