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!).

Anniversary Truth…and love.

Neal and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary yesterday.

Much to the disgust of our children, we did not go somewhere romantic, have a dinner out or holiday somewhere advertised as a couples’ getaway. Instead, he slept so he could work again last night and provide for us while I spent the day with my mum and aunty and the kids.

We bathed dogs, made Anzac biscuits, sat in aircon, picked up my cousin’s car, moved furniture and made dinner. The day before we bought a car, which, contrary to registry lists and romance novels was not platinum and was fully financed after a slightly nervous wait. We will pick it up sometime.

Hopefully prior to me taking the small kid away for the weekend to see friends and have a Wild Mountains adventure.

I decided not to post to Facebook yesterday as Neal already had and he’d written some really honest and lovely things about me and our time together so far. People have congratulated us and I really appreciate that.

This morning though, I saw one of those copy and paste and share posts and, as I read it, felt the honesty of it and decided to share it here instead. I don’t want to get too caught up in the idea of writing for likes.

If I’m really honest, which isn’t easy, even some of what’s written below isn’t always the truth of long term relationships, be they friends, family or spouses.

Sometimes it’s weeks of being irritated with everything the other person does and not wanting to admit that it’s more because you’re irritable than anything they may or may not do. It’s about not having been effective budgeters, again, and trying really hard not to argue about that. And sometimes succeeding. It’s about figuring out your life isn’t a romance novel or movie and being ok with that, even when you love them (books and spouses). Sometimes it’s about having one person always giving massages and the other one pretending to for about 3 minutes each year to ‘balance things out’ even though they never intend to change the status quo. (Let’s all make assumptions about who does what in my relationship and be kind to the author, ok?)

Sometimes long-lasting relationships are about reading books or going to seminars that will help, in the hope that some of your newly-found knowledge will transfer to the other person by osmosis, because they clearly need to learn this stuff! It’s about awesome kids you’ve created together who you now disagree how to raise. Or loving one another even if you don’t always like one another.

Despite my many qualifiers above, it isn’t all tiptoe and testiness; compromise and buts. Sometimes it surpasses rom coms by miles! Sometimes you say the right thing at the right time and your spouse really understands how you feel about them…in a good way. Flowers and chocolates are always good, so are Xbox Gold passes and 3D printers and pies or Coke at the right time.

We’ve found love exists in silently agreeing to listen like you care to stories of ‘a student of mine’ or admiring ‘the best blood-spatter painting’. Or just knowing that you cook and I fill in all forms. Ad infinitum.

We’ve found love is hanging onto God because you can’t hang onto anything else and make it. And if we can struggle and succeed through like this, you can, too.

Thanks to Catherine for sharing.

*Lifelong commitment is not what everyone thinks it is. It’s not waking up early every morning to make breakfast and eat together. It’s not cuddling in bed together until both of you peacefully fall asleep. It’s not a clean home and a homemade meal every day.
It’s someone who steals all the covers. It’s sometimes slammed doors, and a few harsh words, disagreeing, and the silent treatment until your hearts heal. Then…forgiveness!
It’s coming home to the same person everyday that you know loves and cares about you, in spite of and because of who you are. It’s laughing about the one time you accidentally did something stupid. It’s about dirty laundry and unmade beds without finger pointing. It’s about helping each other with the hard work of life! It’s about swallowing the nagging words instead of saying them out loud.
It’s about eating the cheapest and easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at 10 p.m. to eat because you both had a crazy day. It’s when you have an emotional breakdown, and your love lays with you and holds you and tells you everything is going to be okay, and you believe them. It’s when “Netflix and chill” literally means you watch Netflix and hang out. It’s about still loving someone even though sometimes they make you absolutely insane.
Living with the person you love is not perfect, and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s amazing and comforting and one of the best things you’ll ever experience.
(Go ahead and share a picture of the person you love and copy and paste this, make their day.)*

Love and veritas,

Eski 🐛

‘Scuse me, Miss!

It’s only been about 6 weeks since I last stood in front of a class and (hopefully) taught. It’s been less than 48 hours since I sat in someone else’s. And today, it begins again. And I’m scared.

Yes, scared. I know it seems unreasonable, because I love the school I’m at. I love the kids (most of them – veritas serum again). I love to teach. I love the connections; momentary or long lasting. I love the lightbulb moments. I love surprising the teenagers by knowing about the latest apps, games and songs. I love the reactions I see when they realise that I’m a person and I have a home. I believe the generally accepted school of thought is that teachers live in a box under their desk. I love to throw lesson plans out the window and ride the wave of a valuable tangent. I love it when a lesson plan and said lesson actually are the same. So why am I scared?

I’m scared because every ‘night before’ I fear being found out. I fear that someone, somewhere, somehow will discover that I’m actually not very good at this. I’m scared that I actually won’t be. I’m scared they won’t like me. I’m scared that despite my planning and best efforts, the whole thing goes pear shaped.

This is unfounded. In almost 7 years of teaching so far, none of this has proven true.

Oh, there have some pretty spectacular muck-ups; by no means has perfection taken up residence. Some days, I’m actually not very good at it. Some days only I know that. Some days I’m sure I’m the only one who doesn’t. But some days, I’m brilliant! Some days, they don’t like me. Some days I don’t like them all that much either. But some days I’m the ‘best teacher ever!’ I have it on the authority of a coffee mug. Some days pear shaped would be a bonus. But some days, we are the whole fruit salad!

I could cheerfully forget the times I’ve been taken to task for not following guidelines. I could be okay without memories of 6 dismal months of ‘that class’ in Year 10 History. If I never melt a plastic box on a hot plate in the Home Ec kitchen again, I’ll die content. Broken bones, cut fingers, burns and seizures; you can keep them.

But there are jewels too. The consistent C- who got a B. The sudden, and totally unexpected, discovery of a student’s flair for writing flowery Shakespearean prose. The spark of understanding.

If you’re a teacher, you’ll know both sides of that battered, but still valuable, coin. You’ll know the highs and the lows. You’ll understand the billions of possible reactions you might have to the simple phrase, “Scuse me, Miss?”

And you’ll be scared. And you’ll love it. All at the same time.


Eski 🐛