Have you ever read a piece of news that pulled you so strongly, you were compelled to act immediately?
I could say that’s every cheap airfare for me and I wouldn’t be lying! But not this time.
A few weeks ago, just as the sun was creeping up over the valley outside, my steaming coffee beside me, I sat and read the news like every other morning. I was drawn to an article titled:
I had been following the recent bushfires affecting my home state, but I was compelled to click on this one. Growing up in the country, I know how devastating bush fires could be.
As I read the story, my heart clenched. This family was out helping their neighbours. Realizing the fire was coming for their property, they only had the opportunity to pack one suitcase before getting out. I read line after line, while tears poured down my face. I could smell the fire, the smoke. I felt the grit of it all on my fingers.
I sat back in my chair, stunned, heartbroken. And then I looked around me. I was sitting in a house full of furniture. Full of things we no longer needed and this family had just lost everything
I went and took a shower. As I processed the story, something clicked in me.
We had been working with some used furniture companies to sell off our three-year-old furniture, our white goods (Fridge, washing machine, dryer), and the few quality things we had moved over from America. But something in the Universe was telling me there was a better way.
I dressed and went into Rich who was sitting in his home office. I took a deep breath and said, “I hope you’ll be okay with this but I want to change our furniture plan.”
I began to tell him of the family near Dunedoo who had just lost everything. I broke down crying. I couldn’t even get out their story or what I was wanting to do. I was so torn up about what this family – all the families in this area really – had just been through, that I could not finish a sentence. I waved Rich away, muttered ‘I’ll be right back’ and left to collect myself, so I could explain my thoughts coherently.
After a few minutes, I returned and said:
“I want to donate all of our furniture to a family near Dunedoo who just lost everything in the Central N.S.W. fires. We have all of this (waving my hand) and it just makes sense to donate it all rather than selling it off.”
Rich looked at me and nodded. “Yes. No argument. Of course.”
Rich knew I’d been following the fires in the area closely. I had grown up near the area – about an hour away in fact – and it was hitting me hard. In times like these, people pull together. It’s what you do.
Growing up in the Upper Hunter, you were automatically part of the Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade. We had a truck fitted with a water tank always filled with water in case of emergency. While my family had not dealt with a bushfire on our property, we were very aware of the real dangers, especially when winds could shift directions at any moment.
I reached out to the family via their GoFundMe website. If I had to, I would contact a moving company to see if they would volunteer their services to get our goods to the family. And, if the family didn’t want it, we’d sell everything locally and donate the proceeds back to the Bushfire Relief Fund. Either way, the people of Central N.S.W. would have our help.
I contacted Margot Wentworth Brown, the sister of the fire victims, through their GoFundMe page. She replied almost immediately. “Yes”. They would take whatever we had to offer. She was overcome with gratitude. I said to her, “It’s the right thing to do. It’s what you do.”
Margot and I have now spoken a few times. With Margot’s help, a moving company has volunteered to collect our things in a matter of days. Our furniture will be stored in a container on the property until they can find a place to live. Currently the family – Chris, Sam and their kids – are staying with friends.
The more we’ve heard of this family’s backstory, the happier we are to be doing this. This family have had their hard knocks, more than most. To have this happen to them, after so many other knock downs, I can only hope they will have faith in humanity again.
The reason the family left with only one suitcase was because Chris was tending to the fire on another property while his wife Sam was helping a neighbour, who was currently overseas, pack up their house. They were out helping their neighbours.
Sam had just gotten home and started packing their house when Chris called and said “Get out. Get out now. The fire is coming toward you.” She had enough time (suffering a hernia in the process) to get the kids, the dogs, and the suitcase into the car, before the fire took their house and their livelihood… but thankfully, not their lives.