This holiday period has been an interesting one, to say the least. It hasn’t had the standard Christmas and New Year’s celebratory vibe that takes us from one year to the next. Even if there have been moments of joy and connection with family and friends, it has been an obvious thin veneer, easily pierced by any reminder of the bush fires that are devastating our nation. And underneath our attempts to maintain some form of optimism, lay the anxiety, grief, and the fears about the long-term effects of climate change and lack of action our country is taking to combat it, which can be as saddening as it is frightening. The bushfires this summer have seen well over a thousand homes burnt to the ground and at its worst, lives have been lost. It’s difficult to see through this haze to the year ahead with any form of optimism.
But amongst the devastation, hope canbe seen. Hope in humanity.
We’ve seen our people rally around and help each other in this time of need. Remember the image of the lady who rescued the koala from the burning bush? The four Muslim mates from Sydney that loaded their car with snags and a BBQ to feed a hungry rural town they’d never been to before? There are hundreds more stories just like this. Days before Christmas I saw a local lady collecting a donation of Bunnings basketballs and footballs to deliver to kids who Santa may not have reached because of the smoke haze. Today AirBnB started a campaign to get people to open their houses to the victims that have lost their own in the fires. If you look for it, there is an amazing outpour of compassion amongst this devastation.
While the bushfires this summer have been tragic and while the fires continue to burn our country, as a community and as a nation we will rise.
This is a story of compassion. A story of communities coming together regardless of religion, belief, ethnicity, or gender. And in this story, there is hope, there is optimism. Our climate may be changing but our human spirit prevails.
Amongst the trauma of our fires, our strength is our connection with each other and our love for our neighbours and our environment. Our strength is our altruistic state of mind: the wish and determination to attain the wellbeing of others. Empathy, i.e. the capacity to enter into resonance with another person, is the vehicle that takes altruism to compassion, that is, movement towards all beings be freed from suffering (Matthew Ricard, “Altruism & Happiness”). It is the focus of our minds on compassionate thoughts and altruistic actions, that provides optimism for our year ahead.
So when you walk out of the house and breath in the smokey air and when you listen to the next local radio update on bushfire developments, spend a moment to enter into resonance with the victims of the fires and the heroes that are fighting them, focus on compassion and allow yourself to act in altruistic ways; and together, we will rise through the ashes into a brighter new year ahead.