The word of the week is Inundated. This is, of course, from the verb Inundate, which means ‘to flood’, or in the figurative sense, ‘to overwhelm someone with people or things to be dealt with’. So, if you’ve been cloistered in a hippie commune on top of a mountain in Western Australia lately, you may not have heard the news that a whole pile of Queensland, and even New South Wales, has been experiencing serious flooding. We have been inundated with water: bucketloads, deluges, torrents, and dare I quote a brazen illiterate journalist - inland tsunamis!
(According to my dictionary, a tsunami refers to an ocean wave of water caused by an earthquake, or landslide, or similar. The Japanese origin is tsu meaning harbour, and nami meaning wave. It does not say a tsunami is interchangeable with flash flood. Otherwise, the Japanese would be something that translates as ‘a truckload of water heading down a previously dry hill’. But… I digress.)
I saw an interview with a woman who survived being washed along in the flash flood at Murphy’s Creek. She was carried by the wall of water through her paddock, where she submerged a few times before being able to grab a pylon of a high-voltage electricity tower on her property. Unfortunately, a section of barbed-wire fence was wrapped around her legs, tearing at her skin. “As you can see,” she told the reporter, “I was inundated with scratches.” Perhaps she was feeling overwhelmed by her injuries.
I do not mean to downplay or cheapen the experience of those many thousands of people affected by family bereavement, sickness, loss of work, homes and precious possessions. But the media has been in a frenzy, using sensational headlines to ensure we stay glued to the newspaper or television news. We have been inundated with stories about the floods.
Meanwhile, in our little neck of the wet woods, we had our share of heavy rains and road closures due to the mass of cloud-juice coming out of the sky. This local flooding coincided with the visit of some rellies, who were almost due to travel back home to Brisbane before the road became impassable under a foot or two of water. This soon converted to metric and quickly became a metre of water, then two!
At this point, I must say that I would like to be a wonderful hostess, but I find it a tad hard. I am not a particularly house-proud person who spends oodles on interior décor so that my home compares to the spread of a glossy magazine. But I do like a bit of order and tidiness. I like my cutlery drawer to have spoons neatly nestled inside each other, not sliding all over the place and interfering with the knives. I like to have dirty clothes in the hamper, food in the pantry (not left on the bench) and certain mundane rituals observed, like stacking dirty plates on top of each other beside the sink, instead of a higgledy-piggledy row of dishes and cups stretching all the way across to the stove. That’s just me.
So when I have visitors who… how shall I put it? … are concerned with being, rather than doing, I feel challenged. I know the perfect hostess would make her guests feel at home, no matter if they feel so relaxed they leave toe-nail clippings on her couch. The perfect hostess would graciously cook five different meals from a range of food groups, incorporating all possible dietary needs and holiday preferences. The perfect hostess wouldn’t mind being awake with a cranky baby during the night and not being able to have a nanna nap during the day due to the incessant noise of playing children.
I have to admit that I am far from perfect. These past several days with extra visitors have been a strain on our nerves - all of us, I know. My guests have probably suffered under my control-freak impositions more than I have suffered from their carefree disregard to Visiting Etiquette. (ie, "Visitors should not use their host’s toothbrush for cleaning the mud out of their sandals", and "Upon waking, visitors should make sure they are suitably dressed before entering the lounge room where the host is chatting with the minister". Little courtesies like that.)
Added to these strains, we had the pressure of making warm bath water while our solar hot water system was not working. There was digging channels under the house to direct water away from the bedroom, lighting the fire to get multiple loads of washing dry, then sweating in the humid air of the makeshift laundry inside. Not being able to watch our favourite TV shows due to children who somehow didn’t have set bedtimes but wandered in and out on the pretence of getting water, brushing teeth, going to the toilet, making business transactions on ebay… I don’t know, but it all seemed very important because it happened every night!! But don’t let me complain.
I prayed for grace to be tolerant and compassionate, and in short, to be someone completely different to who I normally am. And for the most part, God did work a miracle and I was able to overlook minor irritating behaviours. I acknowledged that everyone is different, and I have many faults of my own. But, I started to lose my patience when our supplies started to look a tiny bit tight. I wasn’t worried, for our pantry was well-stocked and we had all we needed. But when murmurs were heard of my supplies not agreeing with the taste buds of said visitors, I was a bit affronted.
Surely, beggars can’t be choosers, I thought. If we are low on one item, you have to make do with another. Then my pride started to creep in, and I developed a little righteous indignation. You know, the sort, where you get on your high horse, and start to think, Hmmph! I am making an offer, and that offer is not accepted! How ungrateful! And so on, until you feel quite pious and justified in cutting off all further benevolence. But then a little thought came to me about doing unto others’ tastebuds what you would want them to do unto yours… and how if someone wanted a coat and a carton of soy milk, then, Jesus advised, you should offer them the soymilk from your fridge as well as the one in your cupboard.
We think we are generous, but often that generosity is connected to the giver with strings. I will let you stay in my home as long as you abide by the rules and behave yourself. I will let you use my phone as much as you want, as long as you appreciate it, and hopefully let others know what an accommodating person I am. You are quite welcome to use my kitchen as long as I am the boss and you eat my food, my way, and not only that, it would be nice if you offered to wash up as a payment for my valuable services. This sort of generosity doesn’t really require much sacrifice at all, and sadly, is what most of us offer as our only effort to be a ‘good person’.
But I was reminded of countless humanitarians, doctors, missionaries, and community aid workers all over the world, who serve and give of themselves without expecting bouquets of gratitude. They do it because it is the compassionate thing to do, because they cannot help but help. What a self-absorbed, insecure person I am! I realised I have a lot of maturing to do. I could see that I should offer my home and my time and energy, just because I care, not because I want a pat on the back. I thought about my progress so far, and wondered how long until I was able to be such a noble and gracious hostess. …Maybe on their next visit.
Meanwhile, back in town, where the residents had been prevented from going to the shops for TWO WHOLE DAYS, there had been a spate of panic buying. I had heard reports that there was no bread or milk to be had, and that flour had sold out also, as carbohydrate-hungry people prepared to go back to the good ol’ days and actually bake bread themselves. Added to the fact that the trucks could not get through from Brisbane, and there were empty shelves everywhere. When I did later manage to make it to the shops after our own floodwaters had subsided, what I saw was an anti-climax. Sure, there was no produce or fresh bread in the shop, but what about the whole side of one aisle that was full of chocolate? I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. We have Mars Bars, people – let’s soldier on!
Nevertheless, when I waved good-bye to my rellies, finally freed by the parting of the Great Sea that once crossed our road, it was with a tiny glimmer of jubilation, followed by an enormous sense of exhaustion. So exhausted was I, that the occasion called for a hot mug of Milo with no less than 5 spoons of the calming powder. Decadent? Yes. Desperate? Yes.
You’ll have to excuse me – I was feeling quite inundated… in the figurative sense, of course.
------ "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:6, Good News Bible