Anyone who follows the news knows that more often than not it’s going to be negative. I guess that’s because whatever is controversial or undesirable or provocative sells. Also, it’s necessary to let the world know about tragedies happening everywhere on our planet so we know exactly where to direct our thoughts and prayers. I’m sure this helps a lot. Unfortunately with the gift of plasticine brains – a constant stream of negative news may cause us to develop a numbness to others’ suffering, especially if you yourself are a casualty. As a result one wouldn’t be surprised if people barely surviving in a ravaged economy would be tight-fisted when news of cyclone Idai and the devastation it brought along with it spread across the country. The general consensus was that people had no money to feed themselves or fill up their tanks when the weather was fine; how could anyone be expected to sacrifice the little they had to help total strangers? Strangers who were perhaps careless in building homes with flimsy foundations or not relocating when news of the impending natural disaster first appeared. So what would the people do? Would they live their lives the way they did and ignore the newly destitute… sorry, the newly even more destitute? I would not have been shocked if they did nothing. It wouldn’t have surprised me one bit. However I stand here utterly glad I was shocked instead. The public responded with a compassion I’ve never seen before in this country and several sources claim that there has never been an outpouring of giving that rivals that which has taken place this last week and is, remarkably, still taking place even today. People don’t have money to spare in their bank accounts, that is unfortunately an undeniable truth. But they willingly gave (and are still giving) clothes, kitchen utensils, blankets, medicine and themselves, travelling great distances on awful and sometimes near impossible roads to traverse – yet they did so anyway. Many have sent tonnes and truckloads of essentials to local churches for redistribution. I don’t know why they avoided just handing these donations to the Zimbabwean government when everyone knows it is incredibly trustworthy. Still, this method has worked. If one looks for a reason to complain about the reaction by local citizens that weren’t devastated by the cyclone, they’ll undoubtedly find one, such is the fruitfulness of cynicism. However I for one am incredibly proud to be grouped together with givers of this magnitude, who even when they are utterly broke and have unenviable bank accounts, do all they can to help those in need.
(Image: Zinyange Auntony/AFP/Getty Images/Pacific Standard)