Tragic Leadership

It started out a sad day – Tim’s elderly cat was at the vet, and the prospects were not good. I could sense the grief in Tim at lunch.

A short time later, at 1pm the same feelings of despair hit me as they did in September when a friend who’s ill in hospital phoned me to say I better phone my parents as there’s been a serious earthquake. Only yesterday I had included my folks with the 1952 photograph of them in my last blog. I knew Mum was okay as she had texted me just prior with a text “bad stake, hope Tom and Dad are ok”, which didn’t make any sense. Did everyone have food poisoning I had wondered? Anyway my son Tom and Dad had been in a CD shop in Cashel Street prior to visiting Ballantynes when the quake struck. They emerged to a scene of destruction, dust and the CD store collapsed. Cold chill. Luckily they were able to walk home.

Many others have not been so fortunate and as I write they say 65 people have been killed with the prospect of many more. To say that this is a difficult is trite.

My thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones. And with those who are desperately worried about loved ones who are missing. I cannot pretend to imagine the anxiety and suffering.

That as a community we seem to know what to do when tragedy strikes, because we’ve had now three big tragedies in the last few months, is tragic itself. But we do and when you read messages, hear the shake in Hillary Barry’s voice on TV3, you feel we really are a community nation. Grief is very personal. This is of a scale that as Kiwis it feels personal for us all.

A dark day with many more to come. But somehow feel a stronger Kiwi with media, political and crisis leadership dealing compassionately and so quickly with such a tragedy. And proud of Tom for being such a great support to his grandparents. And a sad day for Tim who for the second time in a fortnight, saw an old and much loved pet die.

Two strong boys I’m proud of today. Let’s do what we can for Christchurch.


Well grounded

When I was at Linwood Avenue School in Christchurch we used to have earthquake drills. The alarm would go and 30 little kids and Mr Kean would dive under the desks. When you’re still in single digits it’s pretty real and looking back I can see now how informed we were then about the threat of an earthquake. The earthquake is a shock alright in many respects, but is it a surprise?

If Mr Kean were here today, he’d tell you that it was

Mum and Dad's spare room Christchurch needed a good clean up after the earthquake - Click the Picture to Donate to the Earthquake relief fund

always going to happen (with a beard, Mr Kean would fit the bill for looking like the old testament god, that when such an event occurred 3000 years ago, would have inspired a new biblical story!). Fortunately, we now know that it’s the Teutonic plates moving and we should take comfort that no-one or thing is playing games with us.

When a disaster strikes we look for someone to show the way. Knowing that this is simply the earth moving as it has for the last 4 billion years it’s been around, we recognise that the resources to deal with it are with us. And this is where our leaders can bring comfort to us all. Not by telling us that there is a reason for the quakes or that they will stop on a certain date. But by listening, being present and taking practical action to do the best for those impacted. Who in Christchurch hasn’t been impacted?

What I saw in the political leaders in Christchurch was a well grounded, mindful and compassionate response. Some comment that it’s cynical political grandstanding. I don’t agree. It’s showing exactly the leadership at the time we need it. Most of the time we don’t need political leaders to look after us, but when adversity strikes, a steady hand and helpful measures to help those impacted to cope is a good thing. The ground has sure moved, and I know personally how the folk in Christchurch are feeling, but our leaders have proven to be well grounded. You don’t always know leadership until adversity strikes. We’ve had a good look now.