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Travelling through the South Island, on my first trip to NZ, I remember driving for long periods of time without seeing another person. I had a strange feeling that perhaps there’d been a mass evacuation and I didn’t get the call!
Hello, hello…is there any reception here….is this phone working?
Seriously though, the landscapes are breathtaking, surreal – the beauty of the scenery is like so many postcards. It is also calm, peaceful and still. So much space, big sky and timeless mountains, lakes and rivers.
As still as the land seems on the surface though, underneath, it’s alive, moving and shifting all the time. The country lies in the aptly-named ‘Ring of fire’ (the Pacific one not the Johnny Cash one). It’s a very seismically active country! Many of the earthquakes are barely noticeable but the 7.8 quake in November was pretty epic. Centred at the top of the South Island we felt it very strongly in Wellington.
Crouched under the table with the sound of crashing glasses in my ears…I thought to myself, ‘I’m in trouble here’. Not going to lie, it was scary stuff folks but about a minute after the quake subsided, my neighbour Ken knocked on the door to check I was ok. It was such a simple, yet reassuring gesture and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. He then went to all the other apartments on the floor doing the same thing – what a legend!
Right through the early hours of the morning (the quake happened at 12.02 am) friends and family were calling each other to make sure everyone was safe. Anxious and shaken people went to stay at friends’ houses. Those with damage to their places were welcomed into homes that seemed more solid. The shared care and concern made one proud to be a human being as everyone pulled together to help each other out.
An event like this reminds us that at times of crisis and chaos, we humans are often at our best. We rally around those who are hurt and scared and we dig deep for compassion and empathy for those traumatised and unsteady. It’s a stark reminder of our mortality and this often leads to a greater generosity of spirit and helpfulness to our fellow humans.
A quote from an article in Scientific American magazine says it perfectly:
‘Acute stress may help remind us of a fundamental truth: our common humanity. Understanding our shared vulnerability — life makes no promises — may be frightening, but it can inspire kindness, connection, and desire to stand together and support each other.’
(How the stress of disaster brings people together – by Emma Seppala 2012)
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could feel this connection without a precipitating event like a big quake? Let’s try and nurture compassion this year and not wait for a big crisis to recognise our shared humanity. I have faith in us.
Take care and be kind to each other
P.S. The legendary Johnny Cash rocks as well!