For five days I have sat and watched the constant footage of Christchurch. From ten minutes after the quake I’ve seen pictures that have etched themselves into my body.
Each day we are bombarded by images that no sane person wants to watch. Images of human lives destroyed by an action either by humans, or as in Christchurch – nature.
I’ve turned the images off at times, too sickened to see anymore.
Watching Christchurch is different. Is it because it is in the land I’ve adopted as my home? Because these people are part of me as they are to other New Zealanders. It certainly has something to do with that.
Is that why my tears are often close to the surface? In part.
What draws me to watch those images is more complex and yet so simple.
It’s the heart of New Zealand. The reason I never left this country to go back to Australia when my marriage fell apart or I broke my back.
It’s the heart of the people. Never more visible.
Terrified they may be after two earthquakes have taken their homes, businesses, and now some of their lives. They are wounded, if not in body, certainly in spirit.
But they are Kiwi’s. Until you live here, in this land that has a spirit that runs deeper than any tragedy to can throw at it, you cannot know, really know what that means.
It’s why they stayed, digging people out not knowing where their own families were, because they could help where they were.
It’s the couple in the camper van on holiday that are still there feeding breakfast to anyone they can, and the students who won’t leave to go home because they can help clean up streets, and people’s homes and yards.
It’s the rescue workers who crawled into dangerous situations to be there for those still trapped and frightened.
It’s the person in Auckland offering their home to anyone who wants to leave the area.
It’s the volunteer that leaves her torn open house to the weather so she can help deliver food and comfort to the elderly and disabled in Christchurch.
It’s the five-year-old who handed over his piggy bank to donate to the Christchurch appeal.
I felt it when I needed it.
They keep it out of sight in their daily lives. That’s the Kiwi way – they don’t wear their heart publicly. Until it’s needed.
But when it’s needed, they hand it over without thinking. They don’t need to think. It is an automatic response, like breathing.
And they do it quietly. They get uncomfortable around recognition or accolades for what they do. Usually they slip quickly away before you can express your gratitude.
I don’t think they enjoy it, your need to show appreciation. They just did what you do when necessary, so they’d rather you let it go.
They are like the number eight wire that is synonymous with the Kiwi ingenuity. Strong, simple.
If you look out over a paddock in New Zealand sometime, you’ll probably find it difficult to see. Almost invisible, but there, protecting everything it surrounds.