Last night, I tried once again to write my Annual Christmas Newsletter but was getting stuck. After the last few weeks, I‘m finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Australia has been in mourning following the accidental death of cricketer Phillip Hughes. Since then the shock, outrage and sadness has only got worse…so much worse! Knowing that these families are grieving, it is hard to feel positive about this Christmas or write about what our family has been doing this year, as though it’s all just business as usual. That said, I was having chemo last Christmas and every Christmas we have together as a family is very, very precious.
The Annual Christmas Newsletter is a tradition started by my grandfather. He quite literally belted out his newsletter on the keys of his pre-historic typewriter well after the days of computers. I’ve even seen newer contraptions preserved in modern museums. He was a Church Pastor and knew a lot of people and could have used a mail house to get his Christmas newsletter out. Christmas was such a special time for him. Not just because it honored Jesus’ birth but because it brought Christians and families together. He loved nothing more than the annual Christmas Tree service on Christmas Eve where the children dressed up as angels and shepherds. If you’d been good at Sunday School, you might just be lucky and get the role of Mary or Joseph. That is, instead of being cast as the donkey!!
However, I was not only struggling due to the usual writer’s block. I am still absolutely shell-shocked by recent events.
You know what I’m talking about.
I still haven’t started my newsletter and what I started writing has instead become this post. Quite unintentionally, it has ended up with two contrasting but interwoven stories. The words look at what’s happened as I guess I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The photos of our family tell a different story. They show those precious Christmas moments we all treasure and they really brought it home what these families have lost. Going through our many many Christmas photos has also helped me appreciate our kids a lot more and what we have. That we shoud never take that for granted. Never ever!
Phillip Hughes’ death stopped the nation. That now seems a very long time ago in what I’m now calling “the Age of Innocence” before the events of last week. How a cricket ball could by-pass the helmet and hit him smack in the neck and kill such a fit and healthy young sportsman in the prime of life was beyond comprehension. Naturally, we support bowler Sean Abbott and the accident was clearly not his fault. It was one of those freakish things you can’t explain.
As I watched “Hughesie’s” funeral on TV, I heard his brother talk about the endless hours he spent bowling to his little bro who always insisted on batting first and took days and days to get out. Being the youngest, it was his sister’s job to fetch the balls. After hearing all those little anecdotes, we felt like we knew the cricketer in the green baggy cap with the enormous smile and such a joie de vivre. We felt shattered for his family and his cricketing family as well and we thought about his upcoming birthday and, of course, Christmas !!
However, last week’s dreadful siege in Martin Place’s much loved Lindt Café was in another league of shocked disbelief entirely. Of course, this tragedy wasn’t some statistically freakish accident. It was pure evil in action and it happened in our Sydney.
At any other time, any chocoholic would have been ecstatic to be locked up in the Lindt Cafe overnight and the contrast between chocolate heaven and the absolute hell that went on in there, is incomprehensible. I’ve never been there but so many friends have such special memories of that café. It is an indulgent treat. As the gunman forced the hostages up against the windows and we saw their hands, the window frames were decorated with “Merry Christmas” in fancy script. Again, this juxtaposition was yet another cruel irony. The siege ended on Tuesday 16th December with the deaths of Tori Johnson , the Manager of the Lindt Café and Katrina Dawson, Barrister and mother of three who had a love of hot chocolate.
An utter tragedy!!
You wouldn’t think it could get much worse, even though you know it does.
Only a day later, seven heavily armed Taliban gunmen scaled an outer wall of the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan and began shooting indiscriminately. 132 children and nine school staff were killed in what has been the deadliest ever attack by the Taliban in Pakistan. As the Economist stated: “It takes something unusually vile for the world to pay much attention to a terrorist outrage in Pakistan”.
I doubt any of us can even name one of the children killed in that attack. Personally, beyond knowing it had happened, I didn’t really know many of the details myself. I have been immersed in the aftermath of the Lindt Cafe Siege. It wasn’t that I didn’t care but once again it was over there and I was still shell shocked by what had happened here. I think they’ve termed this “sympathy fatigue”. All the same, these kids are just like yours and mine. They no doubt also liked to play cricket. Perhaps, they eveh put their cricket bats out the front of their homes out of respect to cricketer Phillip Hughes just like kids all around Australia…not knowing the horror which lay ahead.
Yet, around the world, people know Phillip Hughes, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson by name. Sir Elton John paused during a concert to honour Hughes and Martin Place is bursting and overflowing with floral tributes to these hero hostages who lost their lives protecting others.
Those children in Pakistan are just as precious!!
While it’s tempting to switch off and feel that the Pakistan massacre is just too horrific. Too dreadful. Can we afford to cover our eyes, our ears and simply switch off our TVs and somehow get back to Christmas 2014? Get back to wrapping presents, decorating trees, baking, eating too much chocolate, too much of everything including a few stiff drinks…especially after last week?
No matter who you are, we all have our own problems. While there are quite evidently a lot of people worse off out there, you also need to deal with your own stuff too. No one else is going to do it for you!! Perhaps, you just haven’t got anything left to think about someone someplace else.
You also might just want to enjoy Christmas and honour the real meaning of Christmas…Christ’s birth and that God the Father sent him down to earth to save mankind from themselves. Save the lost. After this week, you’d think that Jesus might think it’s time to come back. How could there be so much hate and violence on our pretty blue planet which ironically looks so peaceful from space? I don’t know. Somehow, we need to start turning the tide around but how?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.
But what can we do?
Thousands have left flowers in Martin Place. You can send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids. We can also make a start by living by the Golden Rule and treating others as we would like to be treated . We could perhaps even develop the empathy and compassion to consider how others would like to be treated as well. How many of us have people we don’t speak to or even worse spew out abuse at each other? If we can not show love, forgiveness and compassion in our own personal relationships, how can we possibly change our world? While we might not have physically murdered anyone, who have we damaged through our words or our deeds…or indeed, possibly even broken beyond repair? There is so much pain and heartache in our world and maybe we just need to listen to a troubled soul and that could be all it takes to make a difference and show love…that proverbial cup of tea.
Yet, even listening is not as easy as we think.
Just when we thought that it couldn’t get much worse, news came through from Queensland (Australia) that a mother has been charged with murdering 7 of her children as well as her niece. That’s eight children senselessly killed, seven by their own mother. This mother has at least one other child still living who has to live with that loss. He is just a young man and I don’t know how he’ll get through this atrocity. Apparently, these children had more than one Dad and these fathers have had their hearts ripped out as well. Why? Why does a mother kill her own children when your very instinct is to defend your children, even to the death?!! We’ve all had bad days with our kids but to do that…it’s incomprehensible. I am left numb. We have all been left numb.
Now, the fields of floral tributes are growing in Cairns as well. Too much tragic, needless heartache.
With the gravity of recent events, I haven’t heard any mention of the families who lost loved ones in the equally horrific shooting down of Flight MH17. It is their first Christmas without their loved ones. But given recent events, it’s like revisiting that horror is all too much. Yet, I still care. I haven’t forgotten.
So after all of this, how are the rest of us supposed to have a Happy Christmas? Oh yes. I’m just swinging from the chandeliers in my Mrs Claus suit drinking champagne, even with my broken foot in its boot.
I don’t think so.
Yet, Christmas Day is too important for our family to write off or turn into a funeral. Life is precious and nobody knows what lies around the corner. Despite my many health scares, I’m still standing but none of us can take things for granted.
As a friend of mine who works in Martin Place has said: Every day is a gift.
We need to make sure we use that gift wisely. For me that includes being informed about these shocking events but also trying to be a counterforce for good. Right now, I really feel like marching down George Street (Sydney’s main street) wearing a huge heart suit to reinforce the importance of love. That love can triumph over evil. I’d probably look like an idiot and get locked up for disturbing the peace but I want people to remember that there is love and goodness in this world, even when we see the very worst of humanity flashed across our TV screens and even in our own city. We have to fight for goodness and for most of us, it will be in the little things. Baking a cake for a friend. Driving your friend’s kids home from school. Not walking into someone with a walking stick when you’re running desperately for that train. Keeping your cool with the kids when they’ve razzed you up for the hundredth time.
These random acts of kindness aren’t going to win you any awards and you won’t see your name up in lights but there is the personal satisfaction of a life well lived and having integrity and character…values that desperately need to come back into fashion.
That said, something tells me that the word Kardashian has more weight.
Somehow, you and I need to be the change.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller
I have pretty much decided that from tomorrow, my blog will return to “normal viewing”. That it is time to celebrate and enjoy Christmas 2014 and that is not the crime. That said, for all of you who are grieving this Christmas, I send you my love!
Love & Best wishes,