I’m on a list. Not just any list. The list. After two years of training courses, uni study and extra workload I’ve finally made it onto the list. I’m on the emergency communications roster. And I am petrified.
I think I am prepared. I have my travel bag ready to go. I have the right amount of white singlets, cargo pants and branded t-shirts. I even have a media interview worthy travel make-up kit. And of course I have just downloaded season two of Phineas and Ferb, the best cartoon ever.
Being prepared, one never knows when you’ll need a white singlet
But no matter how prepared I think I might be there is the usual self-doubt that comes with going into an unknown situation. I’m nervous that I am on the verge of entering into the field I have wanted to work in since I was a kid. I feel a tad guilty that wanting to work in emergencies in some way means I’m tempting fate. And after studying terrorism and writing a research paper on the targeting of aid workers in the field I’m also scared that my security training may not be enough. In my darker moments, usually around 3am, I worry about what I will be like in twenty years.
I have a lot of friends and family members that are ex military, police, emergency services and of course humanitarian aid workers. After a few drinks you hear some stories, usually told with bravado and laughter. After a few more drinks you feel their silences and sit uncomfortably with them hoping that what you imagine is far worse than reality. After even more drinks you put your arms around them while they cry. Sometimes in the middle of an everyday conversation they just start recounting a gut wrenching experience and you just listen because what else can you do.
I listen to a lot stories. All my life people, including strangers, just seem to tell me their stories. Usually the ones they won’t tell anyone else. There is something rather magical about listening to or telling a story. I’ve often thought that if there is such as thing as a calling or God given gifts mine is to listen and tell stories. As petrified as I sometimes get around my current and future work I know it is worth it.
So armed with cartoons, my reSILLYence tactics, and the ongoing therapy that is writing a blog I will spend this Christmas and New Years on call, ready and willing to listen and tell stories.
Sometimes you have to step up the reSILLYense
Uh oh! That was my single thought as the dark coloured Toyota drove straight into the side of my car and pushed me onto the other side of the road. My thoughts rapidly advanced when my eyes focused on the two lanes of on coming traffic and I somehow managed to steer my half caved in car to the edge of the road. I think I even managed a head check.
Only a few days earlier I had played a dying car crash victim for a training course and the whole life imitating art really scared the crap out of me. Noticing the car just before it hit, hearing the screech of his tyres and the smash of metal and feeling the loss of control do not count among my favourite life moments. Though I am very grateful for the kindness of my family and friends (special shout out to DA, MS, JC, SS, BP, RH, BW, & SC) and for the comfort chocolate I justifiably consumed afterwards.
The accident happened on a Friday. Fridays are my day to pulled together our internal Global Emergency Monitor, which is a summary of all the current and breaking emergencies around the world. Between the ongoing nightmare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food crises in West and East Africa, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Haiti and Syria I selfishly didn’t feel like doing this report. I sat at my desk and took a moment to look at the picture of one of my sponsor children. She is eight years old and she lives in Gaza. A Google search told me her village is situated right in the middle of the bombing.
I don’t know enough to talk about the politics of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I am not smart enough to really understand my car insurance policy let alone the history of this troubled area. I am not even sure if I should be happy or concerned that Palestine has just been acknowledged as a state by the U.N.
I do know that the eyes of a young girl stare out at me from a photo that has travelled half way across the world to my letterbox. And they make me care more than I thought possible. Her hand written ‘I love you’ with a smiley face in bright pink texta makes me pay more attention to the news and to our government policies on aid, development, and foreign affairs.
I’ve had a lot of stupid thoughts over my life. When I was a kid I thought I could re-jig the toilet flush to sound like a car engine so it wouldn’t scare me as much at night. As a teenager I thought stuffing my bra with tissues, money and my house key was a practical solution to increasing their size and not having to carry a hang bag. As a sometimes-mature adult I continue to have stupid thoughts. I often think the packaging on the Lindt chocolate wrapper would make an awesome wedding dress. As I am writing this though my thoughts are only of a little girl in Gaza. Will she receive the Christmas card and stickers I just sent? Will she ever know that a stranger on the other side of the world has spent the past two weeks searching the Internet to try to understand why she is living under the threat of bombs?
Writing Christmas cards to my sponsor children