Deliberate Acts of Kindness

Meet Chris, Ian and Victoria (the sheep) of Purple Dove Awareness Group and Food is Free.

They welcomed Theo and I to their home with (literally) open arms. We had never met before, but that made no difference. A few text messages and we are friends.

This would be the case with anyone they meet, I’m sure. In fact, complete strangers have benefited from their generosity for many years already. Things don’t always turn out the way you might predict.

We’ve come to The Summit, outside Stanthorpe, today to learn how to weave ghastly grey grocery bags into waterproof sleeping mats for those who are sleeping rough. Along with that skill, we’ve learned of the quite phenomenal work of Chris and Ian. If there is an hour in which they can help someone else, they’re probably already doing that.

Within a year of Chris and Ian’s marriage, Ian was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given 10 months to live. That was 10 years ago. Now, between treatments and surgeries, Ian and Chris run garage sales and market stalls and organise the markets at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds on the fourth Saturday of each month. The funds they raise are all sent to support both prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Not long ago, they set up raised garden beds, a lot of them, on their own property in which they grow a variety of vegetables. These are cared for by them and placed in a stand by the road at the end of their long driveway, not to sell, but as part of “Food is Free”.

“We don’t want people to feel bad if they need help,” said Chris. “When it’s like this, they can come past and take what they need without having to ask for it and perhaps feel like they’re being judged.”

And it’s becoming a cooperative part of the community. Someone left a note and a bag of miniature shampoos and conditioners near the veges the other week. They had a surplus and knew someone else might benefit from it.

There are helpers, too. Sometimes there are 10 or more people weaving bags into mats under the watchful eyes of Victoria, the mower sheep.

“Victoria was Victa,” explained Ian, “Then we turned her over and she’s Victoria. We bought her to be friends with out other sheep, but they don’t like each other, so she’s up here with us.”

Victoria spends her days being loved and fed by visitors – including Theo, mowing – obviously, and being followed by the cat. Wherever you find Victoria, the cat will be there, curled up comfortably on Victoria’s body, enjoying the pre-production, nature’s own, walking blanket!

Like me, you probably think that this is a pretty big undertaking for a couple who are, ostensibly, retired. It didn’t start with these activities and it hasn’t stopped with JUST these, either. Not at all.

In 2015/2016, Chris was part of Walk for Life. With Ian trailing her with their caravan and car, Chris walked around Australia for 12 months! Raising money for both prostate and breast cancer, Chris walked each day. They raised about $40,000! And that seems like it was just the beginning of the philanthropic story. As they travelled and stopped to sleep each night, Chris and Ian met many homeless people and those who were living in their cars; it’s more common than I realised. When they returned home, they decided to do something to help and it grew from there.

During the hour and a half I visited, Ian took two phone calls and this meant they were heading out to pick up a large donation of furniture as soon as we left, before a doctor’s appointment later in the day.

“That happens all the time,” Chris told me, “People know we help so they often ring us to pick up things like that. They also know to call us of they’ve got people who need something. We can usually put something together. Do you want to see the container?”

We walked past more garden beds, and Victoria and the cat in the shade, to unlock a newly purchased, roofed by Ian, container. This now holds all the goods that Chris and Ian can’t house elsewhere until it finds its home with someone in need. Shelves of blankets, toiletries, clothes, towels, appliances, furniture, knitted beanies, items for markets and garage sales and….loads of things, line the walls. All are totally organised so Chris knows she can put together a package with ease, depending on the specific need.

I’m sure there is more that I didn’t ask about or find out about, after all we were only there a short time, but I do know that these ventures need time and support. From what I know, Chris and Ian are unlikely to ask for any assistance, but if you’d like to see a little more of what they’re doing, encourage them, and possibly support their efforts to support others, I expect they’d find a need to fill. You can visit their Facebook pages below.

Thanks again, Chris and Ian, for your welcome, your hospitality and the great work that you are doing every day (and the zucchinis!).

https://www.facebook.com/purpledoveAG/

https://www.facebook.com/FoodIsFreeTheSummit/

Things that make you go, “Hmm.”

Sometimes families are wonderful. I love my ‘little’ nest of people and the small menagerie we have accumulated. Sometimes they drive me to distraction or make me long for a distraction, sure, but they are there and they love me. They tell me so. In words, in teacups, in cooking, washing, technological assistance and cleaning up cat poo.

Sidenote: I am a grown woman with 4 children but I cannot clean up after cats without gagging. This appears to be my kryptonite. Which, when you think about it, makes far more sense than actual kryptonite. Pretty green stones vs icky cat mess. It’s a no brainer.

Anyway. Love is obvious in these and many other ways in my household.

Throughout my extended family, love is shown in other ways. We don’t live in the same city, so visits are always wonderful. Phone calls, texts and emails are also appreciated. Invite me to stay. Pay for a trip. Buy coffee. Hug me. Talk. All say, “I love you.”

My in-laws are a mystery to me. They say “family is everything” but I’m left wondering when inaction speaks louder than words. And even of words, there are few. Mostly mine.

The kids and I will be in town for these dates. Let me know when we can see you, please.

Nothing.

Arrive tonight. Let me know when we could catch up.

Nothing.

?????????

What is going on? I do not understand. No acknowledgement. Certainly no possible plans. Just nothing.

Hmmmm.  I’ll try Facebook. I’ve seen your posts, I know you’ll see this.

GROUP MESSAGE:
Kids and I arrive tonight for 7 days. We are planning our time and would love to see you. Will you let me know what might work please?

An hour later, I receive one (of 6 possible) replies:

I’ll let you know. Busy with work as I’ve been promoted.

I get it. Work is busy. I know that in my own life. But 24/7 for the next week? No time for coffee? Hmm.

A day later:

***** has left the group.

Well, that’s pretty clear.
And after that:

One (who is widely considered THE most unreliable in family) writes:

How long are you here for? I’d really like to introduce my new partner. My phone number has changed since last time so if you’ve tried to text me, I didn’t get it. New number is *******. I’ll call tomorrow when we can work something out.

Well, seems like the same old deal. It’s always this way. He’s rubbished by many family members and sometimes drives you nuts, but he ALWAYS makes time for us. ALWAYS. Actions, right?

The week before, having received no reply via text, I created a Facebook event for the youngest’s 3rd birthday. His actual birthday is just days after we go home, so why not get everyone together for a little cake? Right? Nope. Not a single rsvp from the same people. Friends from my high school days, some of whom I know better now via FB than I did at school, have replied in the affirmative. Family in law? Not one. (This happened for two consecutive years!)

I don’t know what else to do! For my own sake, I couldn’t care less, but for my children and my disappointed husband, I care a lot. What message is this sending them? Hmmmm.

Let me tell you what I’m hearing:

– You aren’t worth my time.
– I don’t want to see you.
– I don’t care that you live at the other end of the state.
– Niece? Nephews? Grandchildren? Who?

And that hurts me for their sakes.

What I want to do is tell (some of) them where to go. I want to send them this rant. I want to go visit and say it straight out. I want a reason. I want my husband to feel like a valued family member. What I want to do is tell (most of) them to stick it.

What will I do? Probably make a phone call and try to squeeze ourselves in. Make children visit so they can be roundly ignored for the allocated hour; or be told how naughty, rude, goth, lazy etc they are.  Try to make polite conversation and hope that I can communicate, pleasantly and perhaps too subtly, how important family is to us.  This will be agreed with and then ignored again til next time. Try to comfort my husband by playing nice and making more of an effort to insert ourselves where it appears we aren’t wanted so that others don’t look bad for not having seen us.

Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

Veritas,

Eski