It was all over the internet. All over the world news. All over the television. I'm sure you didn't miss it. Totally. The whole world knew 75% of Queensland was under water. Which is why I didn't post anything last week. I was offline. Seriously. Cut off from power and the internet. All I had was a mobile phone and a television to keep me updated. The telly wasn't even mine. It belonged to a good Samaritan called Megan. She, like many other unsung heroes in Queensland, took it upon herself to help those which she knew would be affected the oncoming floods. On Tuesday last week, she showed up on my doorstep and offered me help. In any shape or form that I needed it. This included somewhere to store anything I wanted to get out of the water's way, transporting it there and letting me crash at her place for as long as necessary. It was incredible.
Megan was not the only one offering out her help. My friend Candice rang out of the blue when she was evacuated from her work, asking if I needed help. I so did. I took her offer up and she packed all my clothes with me and took them to Megan's place. Then there were Tim and Susan, who were riding around West End looking for people to help. Same thing. They carried all my furniture and breakables and perishable furnishings up to my neighbour's flat out of harm's way. Then there was my neighbour, Marvin, offering refuge for anything people in the building wanted to secure. My mate Ljubo rang up just to ask if it was too late to help.
An army of volunteers from all over Brisbane descended on my street to help clean it up. I'm still in awe. And exhausted from hauling crap back and forth for a week. It made me realise how much crap I accummulate and how much I need to shed before I can get one bowl, one robe. It also restored my faith in humanity. A very special man, my partner Matt, couldn't get to my place in time and so he helped his neighbours. He shovelled mud and scrubbed walls in houses affected by the flood. His fourteen year old son was there beside him, helping his community get back on their feet.
It was incredible. The whole city rallied together and made an effort. Then we all went back to work, to keep the wheels of the economy turning. To keep the engine of this embattled stated turning.
I want to thank everyone who helped clean my street. I want to thank everyone of my friends who expressed concern and who gave a hand. My heart is full with your support and love.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
I hear a story that really moved me just before Christmas. One of the members of the Playback Theatre troupe in which I participate and with whom I've been training for over a year gave me an insight into the mindset of your average person. He is 40, has started his own business successfully and has an active social life. He believes in social justice but he is also a pragmatist, like most Australians. Donating to charities, other than ones where he could actually see a difference, did not convince him that he was effecting change.
He went on a holiday to India and while he was there he hired a motorised rickshaw to go sightseeing. He befriended the driver of the rickshaw and learnt a lot about this man's hopes and dreams. The driver hired his rickshaw from the rickshaw company and by the time he paid off his rental fee, petrol and taxes, had only the barest minimum to take home to his family. My friend asked him if he had any dreams or ambitions. The rickshaw driver said he dreamed of having his own rickshaw, so that he would only have the expense of petrol and maintenance and would therefore be able to keep the profits to feed his family.
My friend asked him how much money the rickshaw would cost and how much he needed to support his family. The driver said the rickshaw would cost 10,000 Rupees. It sounds like a lot but this is only $220 Australian dollars. Not a lot in the scheme of things, my friend thought. He said his rent cost 2000 Rupees, which used up all of the money left over after paying the rickshaw rental fee. He barely had enough money to feed his family.
This gave my friend food for thought. Here was a chance to make a difference in someone's life with an amount of money he could easily afford. So he took the risk. He withdrew $220 from his bank account and went to see the driver. He told the driver that he was giving him money to buy a rickshaw and that it could only be used for that. Setting aside the slightly dictatorial nature of the bequest, what really struck me was the motivation for the gift.
As my friend put it, he could quantify easily the difference it would make to this man's life if he he helped him in this way. He knew it would not only benefit the driver but his family as well. It would be an asset to passed onto a son later on and if the driver had any business acumen he would later be able to buy a second one. It fired his imagination. It gave him hope that his actions could make a difference.
Although I do not propose to go around giving money to people in need around the world and telling them how to spend it, I do agree that being able to see how your effort will have a measurable effect on someone else's life is very rewarding. See, I'm not kidding myself. Human beings, no matter how altruistic, are bound by their egos in many different ways. I like helping people. It gives me a kick to solve someone's problem. It makes me happy to make someone else happy. Which is why I'm fired up by social entrepeneurship and small independent not-for-profit organisations that give people the tools to create sustainable change for themselves in a culturally sensitive manner that addresses their needs and ability to choose.