This particular phrase has become my most dreaded part of the weather reports now. “In the North there will be periods, today, of raised dust.” What they are actually saying is, “Today, with the high winds, giant clouds of dust will wash over your community and cover everything you own with a layer of red. You will be able to see it, feel it, smell it and taste it. And there is no point cleaning it up, because in two to three days time it will happen all over again!”
I was warned that the place where I live is a dusty area. We back onto the desert so it is to be expected. In our first two years here we completely understood that to be the reality. What has happened this year, however, is that the frequency of these ‘raised dust’ episodes has increased dramatically. We might have had two or three per year, we are now at two to three per week. And they’re larger and more noticeable, so much so that they make the national news bulletin. This is a direct result of the current drought we are experiencing and so is a constant reminder of the situation our farmers are facing with their dry fields.
The photos in this piece were taken last week while I was on a conference in Sydney. I had them sent to me by my husband before I watched videos of the event on the NSW news. It was on a day everyone was anxious about the high winds and temperatures being the possible cause of fires, and I needed to reassure those I showed the pictures to that it was only dust, and not fire that was evident around our church hall.
I really dislike dust now. I wasn’t much of a fan before, truth be told, but I really don’t like it now. It settles everywhere, and requires a diligent clean because as soon as you miss a spot you can see it. Or when you move an item on a table or shelf, you can see where it was.
I have been thinking about the fact that individual dust particles are teeny tiny. In isolation you would think that they would have little or no impact on their surroundings. And yet, when they get together with their fellow dust friends what an impact they can have. In the most recent dust storm … sorry … episode of raised dust, there were a number of locations in the community who had their fire alarms going off because the smoke detectors couldn’t distinguish between the dust on masse and a smoke cloud. People were admitted into hospital with breathing difficulties, and car wash proprietors have been run off their feet.
This line of thought has caused me to think again about the impact of small things, and that they can have a positive and negative twist. Sometimes there are things in life we think, say and do that we figure won’t matter in the larger scheme of things. They will go unnoticed or not have any impact, but when they are grouped together their significance is unmistakable. It could be things that are detrimental like sarcasm, criticism and cruelty or they could be things that are more uplifting like compliments, encouragement and kindness.
These things matter. They may seem small – smaller than small even, but they still count. It is all too easy to dismiss them as inconsequential, but when banded together they can make the news bulletin for someone.
I have been quite challenged by this as I take the time to ponder dust and it’s physical impact on my life. As a result, my prayer is that my thoughts, words and actions will bring about positive impact on people. It seems like a really small thought, but it has the power to change my interactions with those I encounter, and that’s pretty big, especially when I listen to the next weather update!