For anyone in Australia, it’s hard to escape the shadow of bushfires that is hanging over the nation, both literally and figuratively, right now. Even here in the middle of one of our largest cities, I have been walking out of work in the morning to find the skyscrapers obscured by the smoke of fires burning far away, and the air itself is hard to breath.
If it is like this at a relatively safe remove, it’s hard to imagine what people in the fire’s path have been going through. As much as people might mock it as mere platitudes, in the face of an event like this we can feel powerless, and our thoughts and prayers are all we can think to offer and come from a place of genuine sincerity.
At our best when things are at their worst
Despite the media milking these events for all they are worth, and the political point scoring and partisan gamesmanship, we can still see that there is still much good in the world. In fact, it is fair to say that it is moments of crisis that Australians are at their best. Whether it is war or natural disaster, the Aussie response is to roll up our sleeves, pitch in, and be there for each other.
Standing alongside our trained and professional first responders—who have gone above and beyond—are countless volunteers, made up of Australians from all walks of life, and every race or creed or religion imaginable. Regardless of their differences, they are united by the desire to do their part.
Filling the gaps
From our volunteer fire fighters, to the people delivering food and supplies to the front line, or those succoring injured wildlife, or even the neighbours offering a roof over displaced heads, they aren’t hard to find. For every voice more interested in advancing an agenda, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of pairs of hands reaching out to those in need.
But, it’s no surpise, because volunteerism has always been the foundation of Aussie society. It’s what keeps our sporting clubs and charities running, papers over the gaps in government funding and services which would otherwise swallow too many of our most vulnerable, and what makes this country more than just the sum of its often conflicting parts.
We can overcome
It’s easy to be discouraged as we look around and see all that is going wrong with the world, and believe that our efforts to change things are doomed to futility. That’s why, now more than ever, it is important to remember that when we do stand together, we can get through pretty much anything. Time and time again, the efforts of ordinary people have combined to do extraordinary things in the face of the most daunting challenges.
We need to make sure that, whatever our differences, we can unite in supporting each other. We need to value our volunteers and ensure that that spirit of pitching in when times get tough never fades away because, if it does, so will what makes the country special.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html