The kindness of strangers


Rain rain rain and more rain recently. Records set all over the place yet again, but shoosh, don’t mention climate change.

Not what I wanted to talk about here though. Was following bulletins anxiously during the worst of it, checking road closures and the like as family members were travelling. And seeing interviews from SES volunteers about how many call outs they had attended and so on. What would we do without them? I’m OK, up on a hill, but many people weren’t. Trees through roofs, needing tarps; houses and shops needing sandbags; cars off roads; rescues here, rescues there, rescues everywhere. It’s hard, tiring, dirty, often dangerous work, called out at any time of day or night, and, given the nature of the work, called out in atrocious weather. And the people in the yellow uniforms are volunteers, doing it for love of community, the kindness of strangers.

It has thankfully been another quiet Summer for the bush fire brigades around here. But they stay alert, keep the trucks ready, maintain the hoses, practice the drills, raise funds, inform the public. Making sure they are ready for the return of El Nino and a hot dry Summer. Then they will be as busy as the SES in a storm. Volunteers of course, bush fire brigades, on alert day and night through the Summer, and even in winter for road accidents and other fires.

A little while ago our village got a defibrillator (this is a subject close to my own heart), and with it a small group of locals volunteered to have training in its use and be available to use it in an emergency. Many people in our community have done first aid training, some even join St John’s Ambulance to provide more formal first aid services for sporting and community events. On a slightly different but related path are the Meals on Wheels volunteers.

We are used to community volunteers doing all kinds of work around schools, young people, scouts and guides, helping the elderly, Cleaning up Australia, running community festivals and shows and fetes and cake stalls. In fact society couldn’t function very well without our unpaid volunteers, supported as much as possible by government.

Next time you hear a conservative muttering about how human society is red in tooth and claw, no such thing as free lunch, everything must have a profit motive otherwise it won’t work, remember that they have obviously never been caught in fire or flood, had a heart attack miles from hospital, or been involved in community activities.

But be kind to them, as you are to any stranger.