A warning: For those of you who didn’t think I was that funny yesterday, I’m definitely not going to be funny today – but this time on purpose.
Just last weekend, I found myself burdened by an uncooked chicken that had reached its use-by date. I started obsessively checking the weather outside, praying for the cool change to come in earlier than predicted so that I might be able to use the oven. When dinner time came and went, the temperature was still soaring and my chicken remained uncooked, I cursed the land in which I lived where a woman couldn’t roast a chicken when she needed to.
I woke up the following morning to the news that there had been many more people anxiously waiting for that cool change to come in, but some of them had not lived through the night. And I felt silly and frivolous.
Latest reports have almost 200 people killed in the bushfires in the southern state of Victoria, many of them children. Almost a thousand homes have been completely destroyed. All over Australia, communities are pooling together to raise money and gather much needed supplies. My sister works for a large company which raised $32,000 for the Red Cross in the first 24 hours of their appeal, which the company will match cent for cent. At Mr Justice’s school, people are bringing in blankets, towels, tinned foods, tarpaulins, tents and toys to give to those who have lost everything.
On the radio, television and internet, in offices and classrooms all over the country, people are talking about the bushfires. Mr Justice said he wanted to put up his hand and tell his class the really sad thing that he’d thought, but it was just too sad. His thought was that there were children who had lost all their toys in the fire.
And worse, I thought. But I couldn’t say it. Not to my child, with his shiny eyes, who still believes in the Tooth Fairy, that Good always triumphs over Evil and that Death is just for the Old.
The harsh reality is that every day over a 150,000 people die on our planet. And not just from old age, but from hunger, disease, accidents, neglect, acts of war, persecution and other unspeakable acts.
And every day round these parts, we go shopping for the latest fashions when there are people who don’t even have a roof over their heads. We obsess over losing a few kilograms when there are people struggling to feed their children.We worry about getting a Late Pass where there are people who never made it to their destinations alive.
How do we find a balance between being overwhelmed by all the grief in the world and getting bogged down in the trivial minutiae of life? How can we, as a self-professed “Zero Populationist” once asked me, bring more children into this crowded, overheated, under-resourced planet of ours?
There are a thousand answers to that last question but for me it is this: because a loved and happy and aware child, who is engaged with their community and the problems that it faces, is the most valuable investment we could possibly make in the future. Because, as one wise friend once replied to that same question, “my children are going to save this planet.”
To all the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, old and young, who have suffered these past days because of those fires, we are thinking of you. And we will send what help we can.
Donations to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal can be made using their secure online donations form or by phoning 1800 811 700 in Australia.