Recovery effort and community response show value of compassion
Leading up to Good Friday, my colleague Caitlin Scott, Chaplain for Uniting Resilient Communities and Families, and I were redeployed as chaplains to the Tathra recovery effort with the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network under the leadership of the Rev. Stephen Robinson and the Rev. Susan Phelan.
We struggled to grasp the enormity of the loss of homes, gardens and possessions of the tight knit communities of Tathra and Reedy Swamp.
But one thing remains post our Tathra recovery experience and that is that despite the extreme loss, the comfort for people is their memories of life imprinted on their hearts and minds. Many people spoke to us about what is really important to them – not their possessions but the relationships that matter most and rejoicing that no lives were lost.
The many stories we heard from the face of the community of Tathra are testimonies of the value of love, faith and hope.
Love makes things easier; faith makes things possible and hope makes things work. The Tathra recovery effort and the community response showed these three gifts in action, making the difference between utter despair and gratitude and blessing.
Unknown strangers who came to their aid; helping hands that will become friends, and the humbling experience of accepting help and gifts when it is not your way to receive.
In times of such struggle, loss and despair the evidence and value of compassion were everywhere to be seen. As we door-knocked on those houses not destroyed, as we gave food parcels, clothes and toiletries to those rehoused we saw gratitude opening the way for grieving and acceptance. That people care teaches us that we are not alone, it reminds us that we are loved, that perhaps our faith in common humanity is restored and we grasp a glimmer of hope for our future.
On Easter Sunday at Tathra Beach the community gathered for a sunrise ecumenical service for the whole community. Two weeks post the devastating firestorm that destroyed over 75 homes people gathered to be reminded of the message of Easter.
The death and resurrection of Jesus reminds us of the value of forgiveness which is bound up in love, faith and hope.
The story from Tathra is that our possessions can be destroyed randomly and with great force; our love through personal relationships is strengthened in such adversity and our faith and hope in a great redeemer brought clearly to our hearts and minds.
Susan Cann is the Uniting Mission Chaplaincy Convenor for Sydney Central.