In my life, angels have taught me the importance of just being with people, without expectation or judgement, writes Good Samaritan Sister, Sarah Puls.
- The Good Oil
Late in October when the bushfires were raging in the Blue Mountains and other areas of New South Wales, I had the privilege of being a Disaster Recovery Chaplain as part of the evacuation and recovery effort. I spent less than a week with the people as their lives were turned upside down by the fires which tore through their community. And in that time, I was moved and challenged by the resilience that I witnessed, but also the incredible capacity in the people I met to feel for others, especially for those who, in some way, were perceived to be in a worse situation.
I couldn’t count how many people told me that they were 'one of the lucky ones'. They were people whose houses were destroyed, but had insurance and felt for those who didn’t. They were people who had been able to save their pets and mourned with those who weren’t able to. They were people who had lost their home but had a friend to stay with and were concerned for anyone who didn’t.
In those early days during and after the loss of homes and businesses, it was amazing to hear the outpouring of compassion and care from those in the community, and from people far and wide who wanted to do something to support those affected.
From the experiences of people I know who were affected by the Black Saturday fires in Victoria, I know that the devastation is much broader than property loss. The recovery drags on interminably. I don’t imagine that feeling like you’re 'one of the lucky ones' is something that comes without times of doubt and grief and anger. So I definitely don’t mean to imply that there is all grace and no heartache.
As part of the team of Disaster Recovery Chaplains, my role was just to be with the people and help them to hold whatever it was they needed to hold – for some uncertainty, for others relief, for many a deep grief of all that had been lost. No one can take that away. But having someone beside you whose presence simply says: 'I know you’re in pain… you’re not alone' can be enough to make it possible to hold it a little more gently.
The need to know that we’re not alone is a universal thing. And it can be an intensely powerful thing too, especially where nothing else is possible.
FULL STORY The importance of just being with people