Tag Archives: #1000 Speak

Happy Harmony Day, Australia!

Today, it’s Harmony Day in Australia which is all about standing up for and defending inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.

However, while it’s much easier to talk and wax lyrically about acceptance, tolerance and understanding, it is much harder to implement these essential values into the daily grind.

While we might fight for the popular causes of social injustice, especially when they are shouted out by the media, we so often miss and even walk over the supposedly invisible battlers who even live alongside us. Their plight might slip through the radar but if we truly used our eyes and ears and slowed down to walk in their shoes, we would know that they could use an extra helping hand to feel valued and included. Given my personal situation, I have a real heart for all who live with a disability. While many go on and become high achievers in a wide range of fields despite their challenges, many are marginalised and living in very difficult and even inhumane circumstances.

The struggle is though, how can we as individuals be more inclusive and help even the most marginalised members of our community feel respected and included?

This is quite a challenge. We are all juggling more balls than we could ever humanly manage. Moreover, when your life’s zipping along in the super fast lane, it can be very hard to slow yourself down. Not necessarily to a grinding halt but the slow, indeed very slow pace, required by someone who is struggling.

As someone with mobility issues, I am constantly struck by those I love who instead of walking with me, charge off into the distance as though their lives depended on it. They can’t walk with me. However, I am just as guilty. I can easily get frustrated when I’m helping the battlers with the reading at school and have to remind myself to be patient. Although I want to help, I also get frustrated because I am having to slow my speed down… the very same way a fast walker gets frustrated slowing down for me.

However, if we all just try, that has to start making some improvement. This is why I love Pink’s epic motivational song: Try:

You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Multiculturalism and accepting cultural difference is a major part of Harmony Day. In the past, Australia had the White Australia Policy and a very narrow perception of what it was to be Australian. This vision even excluded our indigenous Aboriginal people. Our Indigenous Australians weren’t allowed to vote federally until 1967. That is a national shame and disgrace and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.Prospective immigrants were also given a notoriously racist language test as well…especially when they came from an “undesirable” country. As a nation, some of our sins run deep.

In more recent times, as in other countries, a policy of multiculturalism has been adopted and we have been encouraged to explore and accept diverse cultures, even absorbing them into our own way of life. This process so often begins with food but gradually extends to other areas through the bonds of friendship and love. Without multiculturalism and diversity our community would be bland, grey and dull.

Countering these values of inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for all, we have what I’ll call a range of “bullies”. They come in different guises: “nationalism”, “racism”, “fear” or simply being too busy. As people take more of a stand against these bullies, we are now also being asked not to be passive bystanders as well. Rather, we need to be whistle blowers, standing up and protecting the weak or disadvantaged against these bullies with their abuse of power.

Taking this a step further, responsibility also needs to extend beyond the bystanders to include the by-passers as well. The story of the Good Samaritan provides a great illustration of how a by-passer can walk passed someone in need or alternatively they could stop and help. Of course, this reminds me once again of that all-important Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated as well as the Inverse Golden Rule where we treat others as they would like to be treated. These are an excellent guide for how to treat others.

At the same time, I must admit that there is so much demanding our compassion that we have to be selective. As individuals, we can’t stop and save everyone. Indeed, sometimes, we could even use more than a helping hand ourselves. Yet, if each one of us reaches out to even a few, then collectively, at least in theory, everyone could be reached, included and belong. That’s if they want to.

Getting back to celebrating Harmony Day, I was very touched by the Harmony Day assembly held at our children’s school on Friday. My daughter’s class sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in sign language and the kindergarten children sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Japanese. We also had parents from Japan and India talk about their childhoods in their own countries, which were surprisingly similar and just proved what my grandfather has always said: “The Geese go barefoot everywhere”. A friend of mine also performed the most sensational Indian Dance and it was the first time I’ve ever been able to experience its incredible beauty and intricacies and it was such an incredible journey, which I intend to pursue further.

Here is my little contribution to Harmony Day. It’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star where each line is sung such in a different language.I did actually try to find a verion in an Aboriginal language but so far have had no luck. Will have to follow that up.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star English

Brille, brille, petite étoile French
お空の星よ (osora no hoshiyo) Japanese
En el cielo y en el mar, Spanish
He tai mana to rite Maori
Funkel, funkel, kleiner Stern German
Ako namamangha kung ano ikaw! Phillipino

I also stumbled across this Australian variation of Twinkle Twinkle:

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Daddy drives a rotten car.
Press the button, pull the choke,
Off we go in a cloud of smoke.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Daddy drives a rotten car.

Source: Far Out Brussel Sprout. compiled by June Factor illustrated by Peter Viska Oxford University Press, 1983.

So this Harmony Day, I encourage you to think about how you can support inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. To achieve this, we each need to get out of our own backyards and start venturing further afield. Take some risks and start talking to people who might take you out of your comfort zone. If you have a dog, you already know that you meet all sorts walking your dog and if you don’t have a dog, go and borrow one and hit the streets. You never know who you might meet. As the song said many years ago: “it only takes a spark, to get a fire going.”

I’m not only daring you. I’m also challenge myself.This is not an easy mission at all but nothing worth fighting for ever was.

By the way, a month ago, I was involved in a world-wide blogging movement to promote compassion…#1000 Speak. This month, we are writing about bullying. This is my contribution to the project. I thought Harmony Day was a good example of how we as the Australian community have decided to stand up against a range of bullying which stems from intolerance of difference in others.

Bullying which comes in so many, different guises has the same effect of crushing and tormenting it’s victims until they somehow find a way to stand tall. Nothing seems to deflate a bully better than strength. Somehow, those being bullied need to inflate their self-worth. Believe in themselves and stand tall. After all, nobody is meant to stand small…not even our kids. After all, you know I’m not talking about physical size but a state of mind. So no matter where you are in this hotchpotch symphony we call community, know that you deserve to be valued, treasured and accepted for who you are. Moreover, you also need to do the same and pass it on. Then, we will all be able to grow into our own shoes we and walk our beautiful planet with pride.

Love & Happy Harmony Day,

Rowena

Compassion: Should you carry their load?

If you have been following my blog over the last couple of days, you will know that I have been participating in a global blogging movement 1000 Voices Writing for Compassion and it went live on Friday for the United Nations Day of Social Justice.  So, I have been spending what time I could over the weekend immersed in compassion, love but also a fair amount of cynicism and hurt..

I have uploaded a few posts but my main contribution was a somewhat humorous post: Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/compassion-fatigue-a-light-bulb-moment/

In this post, I warned about the signs of compassion overload, which could leave you at risk of compassion fatigue (which isn’t something to joke about, by the way):

“if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.”

Jen, from Driftwood Gardens http://driftwood-gardens.com/ suggested: “As far as the ant is concerned, my philosophy would not to be help him carry his load, but rather to leave him to his business instead of squashing him underfoot.”

That was a very insightful comment because there is that delicate balance between helping someone and dis-empowering them, which ultimately achieves what it describes. It takes away their independence leaving them unable to look after themselves, even when they might be quite able. Psychologically-speaking, this is known as “learned helplessness” but in everyday speak we call it: “use it or lose it”.

In the Unexpected Journey-Life”, Ameena from Ramblings of a Random quotes:

The best day of your life is the one
on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to rely on, lean on, blame on.
The gift is yours-
it is an amazing journey- and you alone are responsible
for the quality of it. This is the day
your life really begins. – bob Moawad

You can read more here: https://randomsbyarandom.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/unexpected-journey-life/

All this thinking pressed even more buttons inside my think think think tank  and I remembered this excellent pearl of wisdom;

Education: a form of compassion.

Education: a form of compassion.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
-Maimonides

Of course, my daughter looked at this quote and pulled it to bits: “What if their fishing rod breaks?” “What if they have nowhere to cook it?” “What if they wanted to eat something else?”

Gee, I wonder why I’m going grey?

After reading the many posts which were uploaded for 1000 Speak , I am rethinking how we help others and whether we should be providing long term, intensive assistance. Instead, shouldn’t we be educating and empowering people to find ways around obstacles through education, lateral problem-solving as well as finding ways to draw out and develop their strengths, instead of only seeing weakness and what they can’t do? This way, we can all extend, stretch and become ourselves in every conceivable way instead of being stunted like a bonsai. An oak is meant to be an oak stretching its branches right across the sky. It was never meant to be a table ornament!.

Speaking as a person with a disability and when my auto immune disease flares up, I can become severely debilitated while my meds get increased to sky high levels. I sometimes get angry when I get stretched too far, especially as I have been doing this while parent two young, very active children . However, if I was never stretched, I wouldn’t grow and find out what I’m made of.  In the last few years despite these health issues, I’ve learned the violin and now play in an ensemble and I have also learned to ski. While this seems like a miracle, it was actually the result of incremental small steps, perseverance and persistence.

This seems to point to being stretched enough to challenge but not so far that we snap. Unfortunately, given the lack of support for people living with severe chronic illness or disability (by the way, anyone in the “severe” camp you could well have both) many are currently living in dire straights where even basic food and cleaning requirements are sadly lacking.

When it comes to helping people with perceived weakness, we should never assume they can’t do something, although it might be considerate to politely ask if they need a hand. I’m forever leaving my walking stick behind and am very thankful when people chase me to give it back. I have tripped, injured myself and dropped handfuls of things and appreciated assistance and lauded the “Good Samaritan”. A friend of mine has given the kids lifts to and often from school and friends have also minded the kids when I’ve had medical appointments (I have lots of these). We appreciate meals from friends or Church particularly during rough patches but I am also training my kids to cook and I am adept at cutting corners as well as doing the gourmet thing. I just choose my moments. Meanwhile, I try to give back and I photograph events at the school and write press releases to help out where I can.

After spending time with people with fairly significant physical disabilities, I have been quite surprised by what they can do both in terms of the everyday but also through incredible feats like climbing Mt Everest or completing the Kokoda Track. These achievements actually make me look twice at able bodied people wondering why so many are glued to the couch.

Moreover, when we step in and carry someone else’s load, we not only stop them from growing and reaching their God-given potential but we also stop them from developing resilience. I’m surprised that more people haven’t heard about resilience because from where I sit, it’s that  magic ingredient that allows empowers us to roll up our sleeves and get through adversity.

I loved this definition of resilience:

1.the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2.ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

However, encouraging and nurturing people to reach their potential doesn’t mean we should cut people who are struggling off without a safety net. Without the financial means to lead a dignified life, which for many people living with chronic illness or disability means a pension. We should never be left to fend for ourselves out on the street. Some of us can’t. We might be able to find ways around hurdles or pull off significant physical challenges for some one-off quest but that is different to what it takes to maintain a full-time job day in day out…especially while juggling medical appointments and procedures which I’ve heard so many describe as “a full-time job” in themselves.

Perhaps, what I’m suggesting is that we offer a hand without taking over or accepting a gracious “no” if our assistance not required. We can also share our resources, I guess through the village which Lizzie Rogers wrote so eloquently about here: . We all have different strengths and weaknesses and by pooling our resources, we can all benefit: T.E.A.M: Together Everybody Achieves More.

At this stage, this post is very much a work-in-progress and me thinking out loud in a bloggy kind of way and so I would really appreciate your ideas and feedback as these ideas are rather complex and probably something that requires more stewing but I wanted get it posted before 1000 Voices for Compassion finally clocks off in an hour’s time.

After over-dosing on love and compassion over the last couple of weeks. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. you can’t overdose on love. Anyway, after all of this good stuff,  I’m feeling 10ft tall…a tree which has outgrown so many, many expectations.

Year after year, the cleansing rains fall and the rejuvenating sun shines through my leaves and warms my soul. My leaves change colour, fall and decay recharging the soil and feeding the worms working unseen. Children climb my twisted branches while their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles shelter under the shade of my lush, green leaves. Families of birds nest in my leaves and sing each morning greeting the dawn. Possums swing from my branches at night and sleep in my hollows by day. Falling acorns spread my mysteries to foreign shores…or at least just further down the street. Sorry, there aren’t any koalas here. I am an oak tree, not a eucalyptus.

Anyway, time waits for no one and it’s time to quickly upload this before the bell tolls.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: This is a huge and very sensitive topic I’ve bitten off and really addressed on the run. Already, I am coming up with further points.

For all of us, there is an issue of quality of life and finding ways of giving us meaning. So, if we can cut corners in some areas so we can have enough energy or finances to do what matters, that’s sensible. I know a very inspirational person living with a disability who uses a wheelchair, rides a bike and can walk somewhat. Using the chair extends what she can get done but she is still maintaining her fitness and mobility. I used to think you either used a wheelchair or you didn’t not that you could do this juggling act, which is yet another way of empowering the individual!

I also wanted to mention finances for families living with chronic illness. I would estimate that many families with either a sick parent or child are in effect living on half an income. That one parent can’t work and might get some small amount from the government and then the illness chews up the other half of the income and then there’s what’s left and you’d better snaffle that up quick before the kids get hold of it!!