Published in the Courier Mail 20 October 2010
We were flooded last year. It was an awful experience, not to mention disruptive. It took months to get furniture and carpet replaced, and we felt like we were camping in the house. It’s not an experience I ever want to repeat.
Then, last week, it rained again – heavily. My husband and I were outside through the night madly working to keep the house flood free. He was digging trenches and I was, among other things, using a broom attempting to sweep water away from the house. It was 3am, the rain was teeming down and I was wet and cold. It seemed like I was unable to make much headway against the water, and, to be honest, I was feeling sorry for myself.
And then I remembered the photo.
It was a photo I had seen on the Courier Mail website several months ago. Taken in the aftermath of the initial flooding in Pakistan, it was of a young girl about 7 years old, asleep face down in the dirt. She had no blankets, no pillows, not even anything to lie upon – just dirt, and at least in the photo, she was alone.
The Pakistan floods had been difficult to fully understand. As news trickled out to the world, the sheer magnitude of the disaster almost worked against it being able to capture popular imagination. Our ability to conceptually grasp the scale of the event was limited, yet when I saw this photo it crystallised the incomprehensible. This wasn’t just happening to 20 million people, it was happening to a seven year old girl, who only had the dirt to sleep in.
The photo provided some perspective, both at the time I saw it, and again in the early hours of the morning.
After all, if we were successful in fighting away the flood waters, there was a hot shower and a dry bed awaiting us inside. If the flood waters beat us, we lived in a country that had the capacity to assist us and there would be friends we could stay with, or other means of shelter. Our nation had the infrastructure to provide clean water for us while we were out of home. Our insurance premiums meant there were companies who would assist us to rebuild. Many people who are experiencing floods around the world are not so fortunate.
Eventually, between my husband’s herculean efforts, and the creation of home made sandbags (via instructions over the phone from the State Emergency Services), we kept the water at bay.
We were lucky in that we avoided another round of damage and disruption. I realise there are others in Brisbane who were hit harder. I also know that the likelihood of more severe floods are facing us in the next few months. I pray there is no loss of life and in no way do I wish to minimise the disruption, inconvenience and trauma associated with flooding and loss of property. It’s awful.
Yet in the midst of this, it’s helpful to remember that we don’t have to sleep in the dirt. Pakistan is still suffering. Even in our inconvenience and our loss, let’s remember them, and be grateful for that which we do have.
~ Ruth Limkin