A Single Story

Inspired by the TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.

What is the single story you think others have ascribed to you?
The single story I think others have assigned to me is that because I talk all the time, I’m never lonely. They think that happy, crazy me must have loads of friends. I think that when people hear that I have depression, they disbelieve me. They cannot seem to connect my normal, everyday personality with a person who sometimes struggles to do anything. That I could be a person who could think driving up the street for necessities was too hard. People sometimes assume that a Christian mum and teacher has never experienced any of the bad/wrong or misbehaving parts of life. People are wrong.

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This is my response to the question above that I set for my Year 11 English class and wrote along with them.

Veritas,

Eski

Verbs. A poem.

This is a conference of verbs
Of action, of being, doing and having.

Of heads bent
In study
In weariness
In lament
In prayer
In passionate writing
In submission.

Of movement
In buses
In search of caffeine…and sugar
In halls of honour and power
In cold water
In beds
Between bunks
Between rooms (a nod to ‘those boys’)
In groups
and in solitude
For God.

Of hands raised
In question
In offering
In worship
In awe.

Of voices raised. Of lips curved and bent.
In question
In prayer
In discussion
In song
In laughter
In harmony
In anger
I’m amen
In lament
In worship
In “Hey, Ho!” “Hoo hoo” And “Huh, there it is!”
In pain
In joy.

Of bodies moving.
In dance
In sweat
In friendship
In sweat
In pretending to dance
In sweat
In do se do-ing, swinging around, stripping the willow, progression and waltzing
And sweat
In hilarity…and sweat
In love
In sweat
In trying to dance
In sweat.

Of standing
In lines
In honour
In agreement
In the promises of God.

This is a people of verbs.
Of action, of being, doing and having.
Of love.
Of God.
Of leading.
Amen.

Poem from Compass Christian School Leaders Conference

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/

Not your ordinary boob job!

Each Monday night, I hold a children’s group while their parents are learning about Loving Our Kids on Purpose. I currently have 8 kids from 3 years to approx 7 years old. Tonight I took them to the Primary playground (it has a gate they can’t open and this is important!). For the past 3 weeks, the older boys have been playing “Super Secret Agent Assassin Ninja Zombie Heroes” and this week one of the SSAANZs was under the lowest part of the fort.

“What are you doing under there, Ninja Assassin Zombie?” I asked.

“I’m making a booby trap!” he replied, happily.

“That sounds fabulous,” I said. “All the bad guys better watch out!”

“Yeah, anyone who comes under here gets their boobies chopped off!”

😲🤤

I’m not kidding. He wasn’t being cheeky, not silly about being able to say “boobies”, just an obvious answer when you’re 7, apparently.

When I could contain my laughter and breathe normally again, I couldn’t help but broach the subject again. I’m a teacher, it’s kinda my job, you know?

“Did you know that even though they’re called booby traps, it doesn’t mean that boobies get chopped off?”

I had not finished speaking before he jumped in, shocked that I would even suggest such a thing,

“Yes, it does. That’s what happened to my dad!”

“Pardon?” This I have to hear.

“Yes. That’s what happened to my dad in First War 2. He went in a booby trap and got his boobies chopped off. That’s why he’s got no boobies any more!”

I’m not often speechless.

Veritas,

Eski.

PS. Thanks to Dee Hudson of Striving to be Kind for the “Conversations” idea.

The Need Of The Hour – Lead Article from ‘The Dawn’ Volume 2, Number 9.

Sydney, January 6, 1889

THE great need of the hour is for men and women who are not afraid to take hold of active practical work against the growing immorality of the age. There are plenty of persons who applaud the good deeds of others and yet what are they themselves doing? Martha K. Pierce, LLD, in a little tract, which constitutes No. 9 of the social purity series, issued by the Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, asks such persons a number of very pertinent questions which are worthy of most serious consideration. Did you ever think how dangerous a thing it is for us to attend a meeting, where evils are talked about, and to read articles about them in papers, and get into an agonised state of mind over them and yet do nothing? There is no surer way to deaden moral energy. I fear that this is the danger of the hour.

We are feeling dreadful about it all, but are we doing much to stop it? How can we sit in our safe churches and lecture halls and listen in a perfect ecstasy of indignation to denunciation of faraway evils, when we might know if we would, that in the next street some work as diabolical calls to heaven for vengeance. How dare we go home and quiet ourselves into obliviousness to disagreeable things with the hope that sometime women will have the power to do something in some safe and effective and eminently proper way to prevent these shocking things? How many of us are contenting ourselves now with praying that somebody else will do whatever it is “advisable” to do at this juncture? If we could only see ourselves as the pitying eye above sees us when we try to put celestial aspirations into the straightjacket of propriety, we would humble ourselves in the dust, realizing our utter unworthiness to receive those fleeting visitations of the Divine. There is real work before us.

Are we watching the train on which bewildered girls are being hurried to a future so terrible that those who love them can have no hope except that Death will find and secure them soon? Are we sure that the pretty sales-woman who waits on us so patiently during an afternoon’s shopping, is not wishing that she had some good, safe friend to go to for advice about some acquaintance whom she half distrusts? Is the servant girl so kindly and justly treated that she does not go to unsafe places for the scanty pleasures that her life of drudgery knows? Has our grumbling at the sewing girl’s bill made her wonder as she turns to go to her home, whether it would be so very wicked after all to accept the protection of some man, who, dissipated as she knows him to be, is the only person who seems to care whether she starves or not? Have we taken pains to secure the confidence of the silly daughter of our careless neighbour, that we may give her an effective word of warning? Is there a place in our town in which any hopeless woman could shelter? And have we taken pains to have its location, and purpose so well advertised that no one could fail to know of it?

Have we joined hands with every other woman in our neighbourhood who can be interested in this work (and what true woman cannot be?) that we may help each other in lines of effort that cannot well be carried on by other individuals? Are the laws against abduction, kidnapping, and other crimes allied to the traffic by which our sisters are enslaved, put in force in our locality, not spasmodically, as peculiarly distressing cases happen to come to public notice, but every time they are violated? Are we trying to gain for womanhood such a direct influence in the body politic that officials will find it to their advantage to enforce those laws, and to guard the interests of women as scrupulously in all ways as they now do the interests of the voters upon whose support they depend? And whatever else we do or leave undone, do we speak in season the well-deserved and sorely-needed word of praise for the ones who dare to be the first in any line of this work?

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Louisa Lawson penned this article for her female readers almost 130 years ago. The call now, directed at both men and women, must read exactly the same! How sad for such a nation as ours to have changed so much, but yet so little, in over a century. Surely there can be no fewer community-minded citizens now? Do we still, as Mrs Lawson suggested, feel that someone ought to do something about ‘those poor folk’ who have not the blessings we ourselves are so richly equipped with? Or do we do it ourselves? I know all too well there are no fewer in need now than then.

Is this a task which you would like to undertake and yet find yourself with no knowledge with which to go forward? Here then are causes and organisations with whom you may partner to ensure you meet (some) of the NEED OF THE HOUR.

Days for Girls (daysforgirls.org)

A practical service to girls and women all over the world, groups or individuals produce washable, reusable sanitary items so that, exactly as it says in the name, we can secure more ‘days for girls’. Days for education, days for work to sustain their families, days of dignity and recognition and hope. Consider your freedom to just ‘duck in’ to shops to purchase sanitary products for yourself or someone you love. This basic right is something not afforded to all. As you will realise as you peruse the ‘Days for Girls’ website, many women use shockingly unhygienic or relatively useless items in an effort to manage their menstruation and have access the opportunities that we too often take for granted. There are stories of ongoing failure and poverty due to the lack of such a seemingly insignificant item as a sanitary pad. The shame and taboo of women’s issue is prevalent in more countries and cultures than not and the indignity and mistreatment of women is horrific. Consider the story of one 12 year old girl who, when presented with the DFG kit, was ecstatic that she would no longer have to offer ‘favours’ to a male adminstrator whose role included distribution of donated sanitary products. How can you help to buy back days for girls? Every girl, everywhere, period.

Raw Impact #rawimpactorg

Consider families all over the world for whom poverty is generational. Regardless of the initial cause; famine, genocide, war – civil or international, these families spend a great deal of time and energy each day simply surviving. Simply finding enough food to support some growth of their children, finding shelter that most of us would NOT consider adequate and working hard to maintain life and existence. A few minutes spent meeting the families aided by the ongoing work of RAW Impact on their youtube channel will open your eyes to the real life examples of these families. It will also give you hope and a real vision of how these seemingly insurmountable challenges might begin to be overcome, one piece at a time, when you believe, as RAW does, that #everypiecematters And when you believe that, and recognise that YOU can make a difference, this might just be the way you’d like to impact your world for good.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a team of women who travelled to Cambodia in April this year to deliver women’s health classes and Days for Girls kits. You can watch our video here.

These are only two of the numerous organisations around the globe for whom people matter, for whom others come before self. It does not take a genius to understand that things don’t change unless YOU do. Things don’t happen without people power. I’m sure there are so many wonderful organisations that you have been privileged to know and work with. Perhaps you would like to share these in the comments below so that others might choose to assist their world in a real way?

Veritas,

Eski.

We Are Human

We are all human. We are not girls and boys; we are not young and old; we are not black and white; we are human. Created in a womb and buried in the dirt. We are God’s creation. Skin woven together to hold our organs in does not determine our class. We are blood, sweat and tears, made to speak emotions, not to become a job. We are human. We are united by our similarities. We run on the same energy sources and live lives with the same needs. We wake with the sun and sleep by the moon. Because we are human.

We are not homelessness or poor government choices or malnutrition. We are not words on a page, or enemies or friends. We are human. We are not the clothes on our backs or the clips in our hair. We are not the endless race of who is better and who is faster. We are not broken relationships or torn families.

We are the kindness of strangers. We are the random smiles. We are the endless love that fills new parent’s hearts. We are human. We are the species that has a heart so fragile a simple sound can shatter it. We are one but we are many. There is nothing that unites us more than the feeling of love.

There are insects that spend their whole lives trying to eat children’s eyes from the inside out, plants which can kill us with a small touch; mosquitoes that are only 3 millimetres in length which are perpetuators of some of the worst diseases ever seen; bacteria which cannot be seen, yet we watch them take the lives of our loved ones. And yet what a person has between their legs determines if they are worthy of being paid or not. A person’s age determines their apparent ability. The colour of someone’s skin is the difference between having their say in their life, or not.

We still feel that we are a threat to each other and ourselves. We are our own worst enemy; we destroy ourselves so others can’t. We set up organisations, funds and protection programs with which to save us from us. We have created a world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are.

We are human. We smile with joy, showing white teeth and cry for many reasons with clear and salty tears. Children, reproduced humanity, drink white milk regardless of the hue of the breast by which they lie. Blood, spilled, stored or shared, is still red.

When we recognise our humanity, our similarity, and reinstate dignity and equality, we increase our integrity and solidarity. We create and affirm responsibility and let go of long held, closed-minded thoughts of normality.

We are human and the sooner we realise, recognise and remember, the better for us all.

With thanks and acknowledgement to Tahlya Andersen.

No fear of flying!

There is nothing like the feeling of flying – even if it is down a concrete path in a wheelchair!  A boy I don’t know very well, from year 11, who makes me laugh and teases along with the best of them, offered to push me back down to the next class I was helping with.  Actually, he first asked if he could sit on my knee and I could take him down to the ITD building.  I’m not sure who was more surprised when I compromised and said I would only take him as far as the concrete path went cause I didn’t do “off road” real well.  I think I would have had my bluff called if he had agreed, but I’d like to think that we would have given it a good go.  So I think that taking me to my next class was the trade off.  I certainly could have done that bit on my own, but I think there is a certain buzz from pushing people in wheelchairs, maybe it’s the control, so who am I to say no?  Sam is not careful.  Well, that’s what I reckon it looked like as we whizzed down the hill.  The three of us flying.  Me in the chair, Sam running behind me, holding the handles carefully as he pushed, and Josh trying to run and laugh at the same time beside his best mate.  I think I was more worried for the innocents who might inadvertently get in our path; there is no such thing as power steering on my wheelchair.  Although I did promise (some might say threaten) as we flew, that I would hunt him down on crutches if he let me go, I actually felt amazing.  Yes, I like being the centre of attention.  Yes, it’s exhilarating and a bit of adrenalin on a Monday afternoon can be a good thing.  But it’s more than that.  Sam’s been sick.  I haven’t asked him about it and I don’t know many details, but it’s been a long haul for him this year.  Cancer and chemo don’t make for a party sort of feeling.  Tears started for me when, at a staff meeting, he was given special uniform dispensation, cause apparently his formal one just “felt too heavy.”  There are the highlights though.  He’s back in his formal uniform now, as scruffy as they seem to be able to make it look, and having your best friend have his head shaved at the same time as you in solidarity and support must feel pretty good.  I’m going to have to ask, maybe.  Maybe it’s not important that I know.  But my guess is that if I felt like I was flying, I’m pretty sure that being able to run like that, laughing, in control of a teacher’s transport and scattering juniors as you go must have felt pretty good too.  Maybe I’m trying to make it into something it’s not. All of us were breathless as they stopped me at the door and wandered off – there was no ‘moment’ – but it was great!