Thursday, 12 February 2009


“Optimism is the foundation of courage.” - Nicholas Murray Butler

We are thankful today as the weather has been kind the last few days and this has greatly helped firefighters in the fire-affected areas. Some rain has made the job of fighting the still burning fires a little easier. However, the weekend and next week promises a return to the hot, dry conditions and this has everyone of us worried. The raw wounds in everyone’s psyche cannot take another tragedy of the sort we are dealing with at the moment. And there are warnings aplenty that we have not seen the end of the fire season.

While the news has been horrific, some remarkable stories of courage, determination, selflessness, heroism and compassion are now emerging. While I have been focusing on the negative aspects of these bushfires for the past few days, today I would like to pay tribute to those individuals, many of them volunteers, many of them simple everyday people who have responded in the face of a great crisis with a magnitude of spirit and true selflessness to help fellow human beings.

The first of course are the volunteer firefighters of the Country Fire Authority (CFA). They have been right at the forefront of the bushfires from the very first moments the flames started licking the tinder-dry bush. Since then they have worked tirelessly with almost no breaks, risking life and limb to save their fellow human beings, homes, the bushland, the hapless native animals and the farm animals that were also threatened. These are remarkable people that deserve a medal for their altruism and heroism.

So many stories are coming in now of ordinary people that were forced by circumstance to do extraordinary things. People sacrificing everything to save not only their home and family, but also to aid complete strangers in need. Human beings can be remarkable in this respect and there are countless examples of such actions in history where one person risks their own life to save that of their fellows. Australians are a rare breed and when the going gets tough, a fighting spirit stirs and together with a tough attitude achieves great things.

Now, in the wake of the horror, those countless volunteers, give freely of their time to help the victims rebuild their lives. So many people that have gathered around the survivors to help them with donations of food, tents, blankets, clothes, furniture, money are there where they are needed to do the right thing. Great disasters show us also this face of humanity, that part of the human psyche that can truly be considered to be divine. This is the face of the altruist.

altruism |ˈaltroōˌizəm|noun
The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others: Some may choose to work with vulnerable elderly people out of altruism.
Zoology behaviour of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.
altruist |ˈøltrəwəst| |ˈølˈtruəst| noun
altruistic |ˌaltroōˈistik| |ˈøltrəˈwɪstɪk| |ˈølˈtruˈɪstɪk| |altrʊˈɪstɪk| adjective
altruistically |ˈøltrəˈwɪst1k(ə)li| |ˈølˈtruˈɪst1k(ə)li| |altrʊˈɪstɪk(ə)li| adverb
ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from French altruisme, from Italian altrui ‘somebody else,’ from Latin alteri huic ‘to this other.’

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