The pain, suffering and shock that Australians are feeling is palpable. And the feeling of helplessness and shock by those not directly in harm’s way is at fever pitch.
This amalgam of emotions is playing out in two forms, and we’re a long way from these bushfire being ‘over’.
Rhetoric is being poured into the bottomless echo chambers of social media and talkback radio. Images and sound bites are robbing debates of adequate context. Meanwhile amazing acts of courage, selflessness and leadership, few of which we will learn about, are being missed or forgotten due to the sheer volume of online shouting.
The second outpouring of emotion has come in the form of generous donations, both financial and in kind.
They are directed to charities perceived as trustworthy. And as benefactors, we expect, by entrusting money and goods to them, that they will see to their rapid and complete distribution to those in need.
Unfortunately, history tells a different story.
It tells us that recovery takes years and supporting those who suffer psychological trauma takes much longer.
History also tells us that humanitarian organisations cost money to operate so not all donated resources will reach those in need.
I donated this week. I also put my network to the test to help meet the tactical needs of people in bushfire affected areas.
Play the long game
But the point of this post is to offer an alternative to donating.
It requires you to play the long game.
It requires you to pause or reduce the amount you were going to donate.
Instead, plan a road trip to towns as they start to rebuild after the danger has passed.
Spend your money to pre-book and rent their rebuilt accommodations.
Spend your money to buy their coffee, food and petrol.
Travel there to put a face to the name of those communities.
Listen to their stories to help them process their grief.
Put money directly in their pocket to help rebuild their livelihoods.
I understand the desire and reflex to immediately help. But remember, this recovery will take sustained efforts over many years.
As I said earlier this week, ignore the politics for now.
Look to the true leaders and then find YOUR way to listen, act and care for those fighting fire, evacuating people and the victims, especially farmers and children who will have never experienced trauma like this.
Then, play the long game.
Planning a road trip to support a community rebuilding its livelihood may have a wonderfully positive impact.
I appreciate you sharing this with your family and friends in or planning to visit our great Australia.