Sunday, 31 January 2016

Reflecting on the floods

This is January's Wellbeing Column published in the York Press on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016.

Since Boxing Day, a month ago, I have observed and reflected on the aftermath from the floods, which affected people so badly in York, Yorkshire and beyond.

Fortunately, this has been done from the comfort of my own home, where we have counted blessings and identified simple pleasures. But this is a home that we only own due to the damaging Yorkshire floods in 2007. Someone else’s misfortune meant they had to withdraw an offer on the house, which we saw by chance the day after the For Sale board had returned. These floods too, will be life-changing and in ways that people cannot imagine. 

The media coverage has led to several discussions on what we would take from the house, if a quick exit was ever necessary. A useful exercise. We recognised that most of the stuff was replaceable and that it would be items with an emotional attachment, which would be upsetting to lose. Practically, we decided that having a file of basic ID, birth certificates, insurance and bank details would probably be the most useful item to take, along with our laptops. We also did some therapeutic de-cluttering on the unending wet, indoor days. 

On Boxing Day 2004, I recall watching the devastating scenes from the Indian Ocean Tsunami. I have two memories from the TV coverage. A British man explained that he and his family had been left with just their lives and a credit card, which was useless. The tragedy had led him to question life’s priorities and his personal value system. He knew he was fortunate to be returning to a comfortable home, unlike the islanders.

An Oxfam charity worker was interviewed some weeks later, when villagers were starting to rebuild their shattered communities. They were using resources given to them by the Aid charities, but the Oxfam representative said that it was vital for their recovery that the villagers did the work themselves, not sit back and allow others to do it. Everyone had a part to play, from the youngest to the oldest. Everyone felt useful and contributed. It is this spirit that is vital in all communities worldwide, large and small. People have to help others and also do it for themselves.

A client once presented me with a framed quote as a gift, as she felt it reflected on the resolution of her personal difficulties.

“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, “We have done this ourselves.”