The pictures of volunteers lining up to help in flood-devastated Brisbane are wonderful and say so much about the generosity of spirit within our communities. RWA has a book appeal running. So many other organisations including ARRA are staging fund-raising events. It’s wonderful to see and every cent will be vital.
But these communties will need support long after the media spotlight has moved on to the next story. I was in South East Queensland during the 74’s stuck, along with my family, on the Gold Coast which was also devastated by the same weather system. As a ten and a half year old, my most pressing concern was whether the primary school I attended was going to be inundated.(It sat at the top of Kangaroo Point so I really didn’t need to worry…)
Areas over the border in NSW were also affected as the low pressure system moved south. Murwillumbah was inundated by the Tweed River with the water up to the awnings in the main street. Several weeks later, after the initial clean-up was over and businesses were starting to re-open, my dad bundled us all into the car and we drove down to Murwillumbah. At the time it seemed like a weird thing to do. We could have had a perfectly good lunch at home rather than a milkshake and toasted sandwich in a deserted main street. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why my dad wanted to buy something from a hardware store in a country town. In his words, ‘businesses need shoppers.’
In hindsight, what he was doing was spending money in a community that needed a little kick-along. It was something I remember happening many times over the years, tracking as far south as Casino and Lismore on occasions. I still have bowls I bought from a supermarket in one of those main street, the tangible reminder that long after the tragedy is over, we can still help those businesses get back on their feet.
The Coles or Woolies or Bunnings in your major shopping precinct will still be there tomorrow, but businesses in country towns or suburban corner stores might not be. Give them time to open their doors and then go for a drive or a stroll and inject a little bit of cash into their economy. Lean on the counter and have a yarn with them. For most of us talking about hardship is cathartic. Let them know they aren’t forgotten. It’s easy to make a difference in so many small ways.