What I saved from the rubble

I read an article on the BBC news website speaking to people who survived the earthquake in Nepal.

You can read it here.

Reading this article made me feel a weird mix of emotions – both about the people in the article and myself.

I felt sad, humbled, in awe, selfish, greedy and very very Western as I read it. To think of the pain and suffering these people have gone through – losing their homes, memories and livelihood to a natural disaster. That, through it all, the lady who saved her water jug cares about doing things “right” for others. The lady who has a bag of rice for her family to live on. The lady who saved her prayer beads – still believing in a god when her home has been destroyed.

It’s hard to imagine a situation where your worldly belongings are taken from you by a natural disaster. Memories that you have collected throughout your life. Things that remind you of your childhood, or your family. To these people the smallest of things can mean the world to them. Living, as many of them do, without many possessions probably focusses the mind more around what’s important.

Why does this article make me feel bad things about myself? Because, whenever I’ve been asked in the past what I would save if my home was burning down, my first thoughts go to something materialistic, like a favourite coat or pair of shoes (well, husband first, but as he has much more about him than I do I’m assuming he’d be able to save himself). Even things like physical photographs hold no emotional connection anymore as everything is online and therefore accessible and replaceable. That the homeowner and student have to save physical pieces of paperwork to prove things to the authorities is incomprehensible to most of us, as we would pick up the telephone or go on the web to get duplicates.

I’m not going to make any grand gestures around the fact that I will buy less and care less about having a wardrobe full of clothes, because they would be empty words. But it’s sobering and important to read stories like this; to remind ourselves on days such as yesterday when I was moaning about the trivial side of life that so many are living with so little – and that their suffering continues long after the news coverage has stopped.

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