There is a world today that lies destroyed. Its hustle and bustle and routine gone, covered by a blanket of rubble, debris and despair. Its lives forever altered, shaken by the might of a land that itself altered and shook.
As I switch on a light here, there there are no lights. No flickering globes hanging from the ceiling, no gentle hum of the generator, no distant noise from TV next door. It was, last week, a place already burdened by poverty, its living quarters small and corners cold, and conveniences like electricity notoriously fickle. But tonight…tonight, as darkness descends, voices hush and sobs deepen, and the contrasts between here and there sharpen.
Here I put dinner on the table, and call my children in to wash their hands, and pour them juice, and scold as they bicker over who gets the chicken leg, and as food falls to the floor I make them clean it up and put it in the bin and they argue and complain and I wish for a glass of wine.
Today, there, a mother clings to a bag of lentils she managed to find within the tatters of her house, and she wonders where she will get the water to cook them in, and she smiles with encouragement at her son who is digging around for a pot and a plate as she shushes the baby and smooths her daughter’s hair, and worries about what she will have to feed them all tomorrow.
For her, I send a silent prayer.
Here, I pick up the mess off the floor after I put the kids to bed and look at the pile of ironing and ignore it , and I sigh because my husband is working late again, but I stay up and wait for him, and as he takes off his shoes and his tie I make us a cup of tea, and we talk and laugh and make plans for tomorrow.
There, a father inspects the ruins of his shop, and collects all the goods that he can because he may just be able to sell them later, although he doubts it because the sort of people who would want to buy those things from him won’t be coming this year, and he wonders where and how they will all live once the rain and the snow come, and then he stops, and looks around, and as silent tears roll down his cheeks he wipes them off because he knows that his family depends on him and he must find a way.
For him, I send a silent prayer.
Here, my head hurts and I take a Panadol, and I lie in bed with my iPad and check my Facebook and I make arrangements to meet a friend on the weekend, maybe to go bowling and then get take out, but not till 3pm as we have footy in the morning and it’s the first game of the season an’ all.
There a teenager grits his teeth as he holds a broken arm close to his chest, and worries how long it will be before it heals because it’s his good one, and he remembers how he was meant to have a test tomorrow but how none of it matters, because all he can think of is what his two friends looked like when they weren’t breathing anymore and in between his pain he feels a numbness.
For them, I send a silent prayer.
How blessed I am to live in a place here, not there. How charmed by twist of fate that placed me there few years ago, but here today. How lucky that birth and circumstances allow me to contemplate the horror of the news from TV rather than from reality. And as I look at all those unknown faces staring at me from the screen I think to myself, with guilty gratitude, ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I’.
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