Friday, 25 February 2011
....because in many ways we're a constipated little country, struggling with all the local issues of the moment. We are usually elated or sometimes distraught over sports performances, smug or irate about social scandals, bored, angry or dismissive re our elected MP's, reeling with dismay over yet another account of murderous child abuse, yet at the same time complacently enjoying our sometimes eccentric climate and our beautiful land.
Then...Tuesday 22 of February.
I have visited Christchurch often, but don't really know it. The last time I was there a dear friend and I laughed our way around Cathedral Square at night, enjoyed the pub music from The Black Velvet Band and tripped the light fantastic. The earthquake of September 9th last year came and went causing significant property damage but with no loss of life and everyone saw it as yet another example of serendipity typical to us Kiwis.
Then this awful calamity. It has brought to the fore all the very best (and a few of the very worst) character traits of New Zealanders. We like to think we are tough, yet we have some class. We like to think we are stoical and relatively unemotional, yet we can empathise with suffering. We like to think that if we had to, we could cope with adversity and awful tragedy just as well as our parents and grandparents did last century. We like to think these things but really we're a little afraid that our thoughts are a deception.
Well they are not.
I am writing this a thousand kilometres away from Christchurch, yet I know from all that I have heard, seen and read in the last days that Kiwis under stress have responded and are responding to fear and hardship with a degree of courage and steady purpose that gives me great hope for our future. I have listened to daily commentary and interviews on Radio NZ through tears, and marvelled at the coolness and eloquence of ordinary people caught up in horror. I have tried as a Christian, to understand how the deaths of young children can be part of God's plan, and have reached for the writings of CS Lewis and others. I've found comfort and faith in their words, and in the words of Peter Beck, Dean of the shattered Christchurch cathedral.
The earthquake he said, is just the planet "doing its thing". The real acts of God are seen in the compassion, heroism and fortitude of the huge majority of people suffering yet coping with disaster. They suffer and cope as I write this feeble tribute to them and to all the dead and injured.
May we all simply hope that this catastrophe brings re-awareness of ourselves as good people, and dispels lingering doubts about our strength and unity.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains : it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." CS Lewis "Mere Christianity".