Back in December as the New Year approached, I posed a new vision:
“Ask not what the world can do for you but what you can do for your world.”
It’s an ambitious question particularly as I’ve been largely parked at home for the last month with a broken foot and what I’ve coined the “Operatic Cough” which really does involve some combination of choking, gasping and the bark of an Alsatian. Even at the best of times, I’m not usually physically out and about but have my moments.
Like most of humanity, I could describe myself as a grain of sand in the overall scheme of things or…
What can I do?
Well, I can do what I’ve always done…write about it and now thanks to the world wide web, my “writings about it” spread around the world, even if they are still not being read by the masses. Last year, they actually found there way to 62 countries, which really amazed me when I only have a small following.
Yesterday, I encouraged you to join us for “1000 Voices Speak for Compassion”.
Today, I would like to share a beautiful example of Compassion in Action.
In an age when news has a very short life span, it sometimes feels like the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has been consigned to history. While I didn’t know anyone on board the plane personally, I spent the day in front of my TV set with a torn and broken heart not knowing who was on board and doing a mental calculation of all the people I knew who traveled regularly and was relieved when I knew they were all on home soil. It took quite some time for the names of those on board to be released, although it seems that those who were affected knew fairly early on. Yes, they knew.
Yet, many of us have a broad circle of friends and acquaintances and there’s always that stranger we sat next to on the bus who might just have been on board. All of a sudden, at least for me, these incidental connections suddenly gained weight and I really did feel a personal connection to all the Australians on board. Although geographically big, Australia has a relatively small population and when something like this happens, there’s usually a personal connection. Somebody we know, knew someone on board. In our family, my husband actually knew an American who had lost family members through a online photography community he belong to. I remember the look of stunned horror on his face when he told me the news.
I am a great believer in the love of a stranger. I have experienced it many times myself, largely in relation to my ongoing health issues and disability but there have been a number of times where I have loved a stranger very, very deeply in a way that defies logic. At times, I’ve almost been consumed by such love and compassion for a stranger and these feelings generally have no outlet. No means of expression. Moreover, these feelings aren’t always easy to live with either because as much as there is great love and compassion, there is also great pain. A pain I could perhaps choose to leave behind. Walk away from. Decide not to get involved. It’s not my problem and yet quite often circumstances draw me further in. I stray across an article. Bump my mouse accidentally and stray across a post, a story that I was destined to read and I am carried further and further along this path…a journey I never intended to take with someone I don’t even know and most of the time, I can even tell them I care.
Quite often, these journeys also take me away from paying attention to my own family. Those who are my first loves and I can get a little lost in a sense on these journeys. Indeed, I have been learning over the years how to switch back and forth a bit better so I am still present in the present.
Anyway, I was catching up on my newspaper reading today desperately trying to clean up when I found a followup article to the MH17 tragedy. This is the second article I have found by Australian journalist, Paul McGeogh.
Sydney Morning Herald’s Chief Foreign Correspondent, Paul McGeogh was deeply and exceptionally moved by MH17. “More than 25 years as a correspondent have taught me to curb sentimentality as I observe the unreasonable randomness of pain, suffering and uncertainty in this world.”
However, McGeogh and Sydney Morning Herald photographer Kate Geraghty felt in a sense called to send sunflower seeds salvaged from the actual time and place of the “crash” to friends and family of the victims.
What started out as a compassionate gesture, actually became a personal quest. We’re talking about taking seeds from a hostile war zone with extremely limited access and bringing them back to Australia, which has equally restrictive quarantine laws. It doesn’t take long to realise that this compassion gesture would, at the very least, be complicated.
You can read McGeogh’s account and see photos taken at the time here:
This story of the journalist and the photographer is such a powerful example of compassion in action. I can just imagine that these two live out of a suitcase chasing the big stories with the focus and enthusiasm that has made them amongst the best in their field.
Yet, as McGeogh pointed out, this journey was about 38 murdered Australian and their family and friends and yet his compassion was inversely proportioned to the people he was desperately sought to touch. This time not through the power of the pen and the camera but through action, deed and the heart.
Our family was also touched by this tragedy in a very personal way and our kids drew hearts on red cardboard, cut them out and stuck them on paddlepop sticks and sent them to people we could identify knew the victims. There were quite a few schools affected and they became the focus of our efforts. I also photographed the hearts beside our local beach before I sent them off.
The red hearts were inspired by the red poppies which the children make each ANZAC Day honouring those who died at war. Historically speaking, these people were in the forces and civilians haven’t been honoured, at least as far as I’m aware. The 38 Australians who were murdered on Flight MH17 were also casualties of war…a war which had nothing to do with Australia. They weren’t in uniform fighting for their country. They were simply on holidays. No matter who you are or where you live, holidays are sacred.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the most recent story online.
I also learnt of a different kind of seed.
You might recall that three Perth children Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin and their grandfather were among those onboard MH17. A charitable foundation has been established not to only honour their memory but also to help make a difference. The Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin Foundation will assist children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. It turns out that young Otis had difficulties. The details of how to donate are in the article:
I’ll also mention a foundation set up to honour the memory of mother and barrister, Katrina Dawson, who died following the terrorist siege in Sydney’s Lindt Cafe. The Katrina Dawson aims to continue her devotion to women’s education :http://www.thekatrinadawsonfoundation.org/
It is incredibly inspirational that both these families are wanting to give back to the world at a time of absolutely paralysing and debilitating grief. It is incredibly humbling!!!
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”― Kahlil Gibran
I am left in respectful silence…
The sunflower pictures here were made by our daughter at school when she was 6. I subsequently lacquered it for conservation and mounted it on a canvas. The original was simply made using sunflower seeds, construction paper, glue and a teacher’s inspiration. The collage has obviously taken on deeper significance after attack on MH17, which fell into fields of flowering sunflowers in war-torn Ukraine. When I look at this picture I often think of the beautiful Maslin children who were just like my kids…all our precious children and so very, very loved and cherished!!!