Wednesday, May 02, 2012

In the life of a child

Noah and Auntie Leash
Just over a year ago I became an aunt and have been privileged to experience the joy that little Noah gives me when he smiles and the excitement of watching him achieve a new milestone. I've also become an adopted aunt to a few children over the years, and enjoy selecting meaningful gifts for them, receiving beautiful drawings in return, reading and telling stories, the games we play, and spontaneous cuddles. While I don't have any children of my own, it's important to me to be involved in the lives of the children in my life. As one wise person said:

"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child." - Author unknown

I remember some of the adults outside of my immediate family who made a real difference in my life when I was a child. Peter sent me postcards from all the countries he visited, and modeled living with integrity and passion. Colin quietly encouraged me to be adventurous and showed me that men can be kind and outdoorsy at the same time. Rowe announced to a group of us that even her bras were second hand and got me thinking about living simply. Mrs H was a teacher who treated all her students with respect even if they didn't get the high marks and showed me the power of believing in someone. Bruce was enthusiastic about camping trips and hands free phones  and taught me that being an adult can still be fun. Marg remembered our birthdays with thoughtful gifts and was genuinely interested in our lives. She taught me the power of unconditional love.
Aletia skipping with swirls, by Lily E

So, as the next generation goes about the business of growing up, I hope I can make even half the difference in some of their lives that others have made in mine. I guess time will tell. My wish is that I might always find the time to play, listen, encourage, and believe in. And that my life might be patterns and examples of integrity, depth, fun and kindness.

ANZAC Day - J'accuse

I will admit it. I am the kind of person who likes to commemorate ANZAC Day by listening to Eric Bogle's song "And the band played Walzing Matilda" or Redgum's "I was only 19". These songs speak of the horror, the lies, the blood and the trauma of battles fought by Australians in far off lands. And they remind us that soldiers, whether they live or die, are casualties of war.

In Europe they seem to do a better job of teaching children about the futility and reality of violent conflict. I was reading that in France the message is "J'accuse" meaning I accuse the men, the decision makers, the war, the whole thing of being so incredibly stupid. In German schools, they teach children the full story of the war, and don't hide from the evil decisions of a past regime.

Yet, in Australia ANZAC Day seems to have turned into a glorification of war. When I attended the Dawn Service one year, I was horrified to see private school boys parading around Martin Place in their cadet uniforms while middle aged men talked in fake somber tones about the justification of war. Clearly none of them had actually been in the trenches, and yet it seemed that they were using the old men who had been through so much as justification for current deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. They spoke of the courage and the sacrifice of the young war heroes of almost a century ago, and suggested to us that they had been fighting for God, and for our Country.

But in those tales of heroic deaths, and sacrifice and supposedly having God on our side, where is the space for the soldiers who were really, really scared? Or those courageous enough to refuse to take part? Or those who began to doubt the existence of God because of what they'd seen humanity do to one another? Or those who returned home legless, armless, blind or insane, and were expected to just get on with life?

So, when we say "lest we forget", I hope we mean that we will listen to the digger's stories, and always remember and acknowledge the experience of every soldier in every war, whether heroic, tragic or just plain miserable. I also hope we mean that we promise to work towards a world where these experiences really are part of our history and not our future.