In this brief post I want to ask you for a prayer, or a special thought, or whatever it is you might do when the need arises.
I know that over this weekend many of you are celebrating Thanskgiving, and I have received many uplifting messages and read some heartfelt blog posts hearing about the many things you are grateful for. A common thread in these messages seems to be gratitude for the place that family plays in all of your lives, and I hope that every one of you is able to relish every minute of your holiday weekend with your loved ones, or that your loved ones are kept safe if they are away from you.
At the same time, I am asking you to spare a thought for a number of New Zealand families (as well as families in Australia, the UK and South Africa) who suddenly and dramatically now find themselves without a son or father, husband or boyfriend, uncle or brother.
You see, last Friday a major explosion ripped through the Pike River Coal Mine on the remote west coast of the South Island, trapping 29 men below ground. Although rescue teams and experts (some arriving from all over the world) were on stand-by for several days, high levels of toxic gas in the mine prevented rescue workers from entering the mine. Tragically, all hopes of rescuing the men alive evaporated Wednesday afternoon when another even bigger explosion occurred and it was concluded that none of the trapped men could possibly have survived.
Now, I guess in some parts of the world that might not seem such a big deal - especially if you've lived through or lost family in events such as warfare, the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, or the attack on the World Trade Centre on 9/11. By comparison, the loss of 29 lives seems insignificant, but if you're a regular reader here then I'm pretty sure that you're the kind of person who thinks that the loss of one single life, in any tragic circumstance, is one life too many.
Here in New Zealand, we are a tiny nation of just 4 million people - the town of Greymouth where most of the miners came from has a population of just 10,000 (some of you probably live in suburbs that are bigger than that). You can imagine then that the sudden loss of 29 men touches the lives of virtually every single family in such a small town; and, in a small country like New Zealand where, as our Prime Minister said when he made a statement, we have a proud history of "being our brother's keeper" and of standing shoulder to shoulder with each other in times of adversity, such a devastating loss touches the hearts of each and every one of us. I cannot imagine the grief of these families and their wider community, but I can only say that my thoughts are with you all and I hope that the longed for recovery of the bodies of your loved ones will soon be possible so that you can have your sons, brothers, husbands, lovers and fathers back.