We had a heck of a weekend here in Whanganui.
A months worth of rain was dumped upon us over two days, causing the worst ever flooding in the region on record. Our city is bisected by a river which spilled over the stopbanks and flooded many homes and businesses on the waterfront. The Sarjeant Art Gallery, where D and I had a fantastic night on Friday (another wonderful Pecha Kucha evening) was flooded only hours later. Over 250 people were evacuated from their homes, many people losing everything and without insurance. Bridges were either unsafe to use or submerged in water, and slips cut off several main highways causing havoc. It may be several weeks before roads in very rural areas are re-opened. The clean up around the city and elsewhere will take months.
D and I spent the weekend mopping up at my parent’s house. They were spared muddy river water, but a problem with the storm water separation has seen part of their house flood in the past, and this time was no exception. At one point on Saturday we had just finished cleaning up the water when the heavens reopened and sent more water back into the house. I thought we might be stranded as our car had to navigate a heavily submerged street as we left my parent’s house. I have never seen rain like it in all my life. We managed to get everything cleaned up by Sunday lunchtime, but the stress and disruption was palpable.
Such events remind me that though we humans think we are ‘masters of the universe’, we are not. We are always at the mercy of the elements. In earthquake-prone New Zealand, we know all too well that our lives are not built upon the firm ‘rock’, but on unforgiving and unpredictable ground.
I think of the words in the book of James:
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
Life is uncertain. We think we know where we are going. We have it sorted. But we are not in charge of Mother Nature despite mankind’s best efforts. It takes very little to bring us to our knees.
But in times like these, that imperfect-yet-radiant-goodness of the human spirit is always evident. People are cleaning up and carrying on. Already, there are many stories of kindness and generosity bestowed to those affected by the flood. As soon as it became obvious this was no ordinary downpour, local Facebook pages were abuzz with offers of accommodation, transport and help. I’ve heard of people getting out in their kayaks to help rescue pets. People making hot meals for rescue workers. Neighbours are helping neighbours. Today, high school kids armed with brooms and spades got stuck in to clean up streets covered in silt and debris.
For many, life will not return to normal for some time. But carry on it does.