Monday, September 27, 2010

THE PROMISE OF NEW LIFE



Well, we weathered the raging storm which wreaked havoc on our village just as we were on the threshold of our National Conference. A lot of maintenance had to be done to make the place more presentable, and in much the same way our conference agenda has brought us through a period where we are feeling pretty wrung out but hopeful that was has sustained us as a movement over five decades is still at the core of who we are, what we believe and what we want to do in terms of offering our services to those in need.

Sounds a bit vague I know, but the images of bare branches on the murals around the walls of the hall at the beginning of the conference prompted many different responses which in some way reflected where we were at as a group of people. Some saw them as stripped bare, broken, disconnected, whereas others saw them as strong, firmly rooted, waiting for the right season to grow again.

It’s amazing the differences visual images can engender, but with more than 200 people in the room I guess it’s not surprising. As the week progressed, bright pink blossoms started to appear on the bare branches in much the same way as we could see the promise of the new life which was to come within us. With Hope as our focus, an evening program brought out all manner of creative expressions where we were able to celebrate together as a family in the midst of struggling through several issues vital to our future.

It’s easy to become distracted from what is our main purpose when our own agenda becomes the focus. When the wind was screaming outside like a jet engine just over a week ago and we were in darkness we knew we were in for a battering, and there was certainly an element of anxiety for those who’d never been through one of our storms. But we came through it, a bit worse for wear, but pretty much intact.

We can be anxious, or we can be hopeful. I prefer to be hopeful and for me, on that stormy night, my little candle was my symbol of hope. It’s only faint, it doesn’t illuminate everything, but as in life even the smallest ray of light in a dark place can be a comfort and show you the way forward.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WHAT DOES HOPE LOOK LIKE?

A pretty telling question when you think beyond the superficial. Not the “I hope I can go to the Gold Coast for my holidays this year,” or “I hope I get an ipod for Christmas,” but the sort of hope which brings about real transformation.

Just at the end of Day 3 of Fusion’s annual conference, the Christian youth and community organization I’ve worked with for almost 41 years, and hope is what has been foremost in our thinking. “Together with Hope” is integral to our values, both in our life together as a movement and in our responses to the communities right around the world in which we work.

Watching the reports from around the country and around the world from places which seem to have so little hope, it’s amazing how investing our lives into those of others can bring about transformation, not only at a personal level, but at a community level as well.

I don’t work amongst the townships in South Africa where even now houses look like barbed wire fortresses because of the level of crime within the community, but some of our workers do. Apartheid may be over, but there are those with long histories of trauma and tragedy from that era, so to live and work amongst the locals in such a way that we share their love for their people and their desire to see a different future for their nation is in whatever measure a way of instilling hope.

The hopes of an abused teenager will be quite different from the one who lives within a safe, loving family. Those of a single mum raising three kids on a pension will be different from those of the single woman comfortable and fulfilled in her career. The hopes of an asylum seeker will be vastly different from those of someone who has never experienced the fear and terror of war right on their doorstep, and those of a ten year old will be markedly different from a seventy year old.

But what do they all have in common? Hope brings with it an expectation, that something is going to change, that the circumstances of the present can somehow be different. Negotiating the path to that point is not always clear. For me, I think hope means having the freedom to take a risk, but I’m not good at that. I want the adventure, but I also want the safety net.

It’s one thing to have hopes and dreams for myself, but how important is it to me to bring hope to others? It’s one thing to say I care about other people, but do I care about them enough that I’m willing to invest my life into theirs so they can get a glimpse of what hope is, and in so doing see the potential within themselves and the ripple effect it can have on those around them who are also struggling.

That’s the real question. Bit confronting for me that’s for sure.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

UPSIDE DOWN AND INSIDE OUT








Bob Dylan’s answers may have been Blowin’ in the Wind, Demis Roussos once sang about My Friend the Wind, but for us in this particular part of Tassie we experienced Van Morrison’s Full Force Gale. With 110kph winds and gusts up to 170kph, 18 metre waves on the west coast, 12,000 homes lost power, damage across the State was extensive and the clean up and reconstruction jobs will not only have a pretty big dollar value but will take quite a while to restore back to normal.

I take my hat off to the Hydro for the construction of the houses here in Poatina sixty years ago. There was very little structural damage to most, just a few broken windows from flying debris, some guttering ripped off, fences blown over, but around our little village there’s a lot more to clean up.

The Panorama Room in our motel took on a whole new meaning when the wind literally blew the window in, then proceeded to take the ceiling and roof with it, putting the roof of one whole wing of the motel at risk of simply peeling back like the lid of a sardine tin. The piece of roof which did get airborne landed in the front yard across the road and even though it smashed the front windows, was only prevented from ending up in the lounge room by tall shrubs which now don’t exist.

Full marks to the SES who came out to assist, tying down as many things as possible so the rest of the roof was stable, but I don’t think we’ll be having any guests up that end of the motel for quite some time.

With the power out for 28 hours I was more than thankful for my cosy fire, and a few of us enjoyed a candlelit dinner of spuds cooked in the fire while we kept warm and felt relatively safe. Stepping outside was downright dangerous, and I was surprised to find I was actually able to sleep as the roar of the wind was something akin to a jet engine parked outside, and when I woke up at midnight to a huge bang I feared the chimney might have fallen victim.

Went investigating with my little candle to find the front door had blown open and the Antarctic gale was now freezing up the house, got up a couple more times to batten down some other things banging around, but woke on Friday morning with a thankful heart that what started on Wednesday afternoon seemed to have finally blown itself off towards New Zealand. Hope they don’t cop it as bad as us.

Surveying the damage in my own yard I lost two sections of fence, one taken out by a wattle tree, as well as five other Australian natives, all totally ripped out of the ground, some of which have been there for nearly fifteen years. We get these gales every few months but this one well and truly took the cake.

How the Aurora and SES workers have the courage to go out in the face of such dangerous conditions to help people they don’t know from a bar of soap I’ll never know. I must admit to praying for them and their safety more than once through the whole ordeal, and have the highest regard for what they probably see as just doing their job. Good on you guys.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A POIGNANT REMINDER

It’s now nine years since the phrase 9/11 took on a whole new meaning right across the world, commemorative services were held at various locations in the US, but I haven’t caught the news to see if the minister in the US threatening to burn copies of The Koran actually went through with such a heinous act. Into day 6 of the crook back so I rested for a while and watched a movie which brutally brought home the sheer madness of discrimination, bigotry and the acceptance of the wilful genocide of a race of people other than one’s own.

I don’t usually watch a movie before reading the book, but The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, based on the book by John Boyne, would have to be one of the most potent portrayals of the Holocaust of World War 2 I’ve seen. You don’t witness the starvation, humiliation, exploitation and extermination of the Jews within the concentration camps, but through the eyes of an innocent eight year old boy whose father’s promotion in the German army brings him to the position of camp commandant, the unfolding horrors behind the barbed wire fence gradually become apparent.

Young Bruno’s secret explorations bring him into contact with Shmuel, a Jewish boy whose only solace is hiding in a corner of the camp where he is out of sight, and their developing friendship as well as the gradual awareness of Bruno’s mother to what is really happening in the camp, portray how terror and fear can fuel a relentless machine which takes on its own momentum to tragic ends.

Not on the grand scale of Schindler’s List or Private Ryan or other war movies depicting graphic scenes, the simplicity of this film brings it down to a personal level, the impact of unfolding events on one family, how moral choices, following orders, and the fear of not following them, have catastrophic consequences.

Whatever war zone you might want to consider, whatever your opinion of who is in the right and who is in the wrong, each street battle, each suicide bomber who creates carnage, each terrorist act which brings its own death toll, each missile unleashed or bomb dropped, is very personal.

Countless war movies have been made over the decades, many depicting the inhumanity of the concentration camps, but as time passes and the impact of what happened more than sixty years ago starts to fade for the younger generations, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a must see if for nothing else than their education. Unfortunately, the only thing we seem to learn from history, is that we don’t learn from history, and those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

There are peacekeepers deployed in many parts of the world, but of even more urgency is the need for real peacemakers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

SPITTIN' CHIPS

Major interruption to walking routine and blog entries…jiggered the back for the second time this year, not a mere twinge but another excruciating episode where three of my lumbar discs decided to relocate themselves to where they’re not supposed to be. Nothing to do with my attempts at getting fitter, it usually happens doing something quite inconsequential, so I was more than a little peeved with myself as I endured the stabbing pains, shooting spasms, slithering out of bed backwards and crawling on all fours to the loo for several days before managing to get myself into an upright position. Hot water bill has probably skyrocketed with my long showers, apologies to the environment but my needs were greater I’m afraid.

It’s now the end of day 4 and I can finally sit for long enough to write a bit. Have walked and kept moving since it happened, as I find rest is about the worst thing to do, even went to work as I at least had a bench to lean on to do some paperwork, as there’s a limit to how many things you can do at home standing up.

Haven’t graduated as far as getting in and out of the car yet, impossible at this point, but here’s hoping tomorrow will bring some improvement and some form of normality.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

GOTTA GET MOVING

With only 6 weeks to go until the Burnie Ten, thought I’d do an initial weigh in to see if my efforts at regaining some fitness will pay off. Rather disappointed to discover the 5kg I’d hoped to shed this year has now become 7kg, making me officially the heaviest I’ve ever been, even worse than New Year's Day. For someone who doesn’t eat junk food that’s a bit of a blow, not sure where the fat intake is coming from but I realise the main contributing factor is probably lack of activity.

The winter hibernation and curling up on the couch in front of the fire has to come to an end unfortunately, and the alternative of pushing my protesting body out the door and burning up a few kilos has to somehow become part of the daily routine once again. Have succeeded so far this past week, going for a 3km power walk each morning except when it was bucketing down outside. Popped on an over 50’s aerobics DVD instead, tried to keep up, made sure the blinds were down so no unsuspecting passer by caught me gyrating my way round the lounge room.

Woke up at 5:30 the other morning, couldn’t go back to sleep, so finally left the house at 7am to attack the morning trek, only to find three other women doing the same thing. Hmm, maybe I can rope them into doing the Burnie Ten with me. Anyway, one plus from getting out just that little bit earlier meant I came across two fallow deer grazing at the side of the main street of the village, though they headed for the bush as soon as I got too close for their comfort. This morning it was a goat on for a chat over the fence. He had his front feet on something in the backyard so his head was poking over the top of the five foot high fence. Looked quite comical.

It’s obvious the benefits of getting back into a fitness regimen are not going to be limited simply to the reason for doing it in the first place. Waking up and getting going in much the same way as the day is, appreciating what is immediately around me, observing in more detail, enjoying the connection with like minded walkers, being mindful of the needs of others as I pass each house, all enrich me in ways I would miss out on if I stayed in bed.

Hopefully while I’m gaining some fitness and enjoyment in the whole process, some kilos and centimetres will also be lost along the way.