Every morning, Amy watched the elderly man who was clearly love struck by the mannequin bride in the window. As tears rolled down his weathered cheeks, Amy wished she was more like her mum with a knack of talking to strangers and easing grief. Instead, she observed, paralyzed… a mannequin herself.
“How much for the woman in the window?” He asked.
“She’s not for sale. Only the dress.”
“When I saw my Audrey walking down the aisle, I was the happiest man alive. Now, there’s just me.”
Somehow, she’d have to explain the missing mannequin to the boss.
I am thinking this story would suit a longer format…even to just 500 words. I see the occasional wedding dress in the opportunity or charity shops and it always makes me wonder how they got there. Why did someone pass them on? Naturally, the divorce rate doesn’t help, but if I was divorced, would I part with the dress even though I’d parted with the groom? An interesting question. Any thoughts?
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ We’d love you to join us!
Meanwhile, I’m having quite a momentous week. I signed up for and have started an online freelance journalism course on Monday and tonight I was elected Vice President of the school Parents & Citizens Association (P& C). I’m not sure where all this is heading but I’m certainly extending myself.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
After providing a brief sketch of the state of play during Christmas 1921 in my previous post, we’re now going to spend Christmas 1921 with famous English-Australian author, Ethel Turner, whose first novel: Seven Little Australians placed her up on the international literary stage. However, she also wrote 39 other novels, and of more relevance to us, she edited a string of children’s pages in various publications, and it’s here where we’ll be touching down.
Born on the 24th January, 1870, Ethel Turner was 51 years old in 1921, and a year younger than I am now. She was married to Judge Herbert Curlewis and they were living at their home in Avenel, Mosman, Sydney although they spent Christmas 1921 at Palm Beach. Daughter, Jean, was twenty-three, and son Adrian was twenty and studying Law at Sydney University. By Christmas 1921, Ethel Turner had had 22 of her handwritten novels published, and King Anne was her offering for the year. She was famous.
However, for Ethel Turner it wasn’t the empty fame of celebrity. Rather, there was a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference, and do good. While I can be dangerous to interpret Three Little Maids as being purely biographical, there is also much truth and Dolly (who is said to be Ethel) made this statement about becoming an author: “One night…I felt I must do something. I felt I couldn’t just go on doing little things always,-staying at home and helping, and going to dances, and playing tennis. I used to think I should like to go as a missionary, – not to China, of course, only somewhere here where people were very poor and miserable. But that night I didn’t seem to want anything but to write books that people would love to read, and that might do them some good.”
This aspect of Ethel Turner is often lost….the visionary, the world-changer, the woman who had experienced financial hardship as a child and relocated across the world for a better life, worked hard and overcome. She’s simply viewed through the lens of Seven Little Australians as though she were a one book wonder. However, it appears that the massive difference she made to the lives of children through the series of children’s pages she edited has been forgotten, along with how she nurtured the artistic and literary abilities of younger generations through these pages. She was such an inspiration!
The trouble is that it’s very hard to condense an inspiration into a few lines or words to satisfy those who don’t want to immerse themselves more fully into the longer story. However, in this instance, can I caution you to sit down. Make yourself a cup of tea, and in the words of the great Molly Meldrum: “Do yourselves a favour!”
We’re going to pick up with Ethel Turner on the 20th November 1921. Sunbeams had only been launched on the 9th October, 1921, and just over a month old, and still in the nest. Yet, that didn’t stop Ethel Turner from launching an ambitious plan to make a difference that Christmas:
“FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN
ABOUT SUN FAIRIES
Dear Young People, — One of the many tastes we have in common, you and I, Is our love for conjuring tricks. Here is one I particularly want you to try. Take a child with the corners of its mouth right down and its eyes running over with tears (there are any amount of them in the hospitals and crowded back streets, alas). Go up close to it, and with a quick sleight-of-hand slip into its fingers a tiny doll as pretty as a fairy. In less than half a minute the eyes will dry and the mouth corners go up. This trick has never been known to fail. So now then, let us do it together. Your part is to buy a tiny celluloid doll or kewpie, dross it in something very fairylike — gay and pretty, or comical as an elf — put it in a, tiny box, and post or hand it in to “Sunbeams.” My part will be to find the children in the hospitals and back streets about Christmas time. I shall also examine the dolls carefully — we will call them Sun Fairies— and give three prizes of half-a-crown each to the three most attractive ones, and six “Sun” honor cards. You need send no coupon with this competition, as the doll will cost you anything from twopence to sixpence. Send December 1st.
Ethel Turner received an enthusiastic and touching response to her call for contributions. On the 11th December, 1921, she wrote:
“THE SUN FAIRIES
ROOMFUL OF WONDERFUL DOLLS DAME MARGARET DAVIDSON’S WINNERS
The response to the “Sun” fairies competition was splendid and many little “Sunbeams” will be cheered by the really wonderful little dolls sent in… It was a lovely spirit which prompted the competitors to send in the dolls — they were not concerned with winning prizes, but with doing something with their own hands which would give pleasure to children, to whom dainty dolls are a rare and precious luxury. Many of the children marked their entries: “Not sent in for a prize,” and pinned to almost every doll was a pretty little greeting to the recipient. They sat about all over the floor and the chairs and tables rather impatient in their boxes, just as trapped butterflies might be; they were eager to be gone upon their task of carrying sunshine. They were dressed in silk and spangles, in little frilly skirts of lace, in bridal gowns; in elf costumes; there were little mother fairies with tiny children around them, father fairies, fussy and important, fairies with opera cloaks on, and carrying bags; baby fairies, red riding hood fairies; one or two arrived with their beds and bedding, a few with suit-cases for the week-end and complete wardrobes. Wendy came, together with John and Michael, and Peter Pan. And wands! There were enough wands to have enchanted all Sydney and turned it to happy ways had they been held up. And no one, not any one, had forgotten the pretty little card with “From one Sunbeam to another” and other affectionate greetings. Dorothy Makin’s box of dolls, which won first prize, lacked only the bride groom to make the wedding party complete. But then it is so difficult to make a fairy-like creature of a man who should be dressed strictly in black. It was a rainbow wedding, and the bride chose ivory satin for her gown. She also had an overskirt of lace, and trimmed her whole frock with pearls. She wore the usual wreath and veil, and carried a bouquet of white blossoms and a fan. Her maids were frocked in rose, mauve, coral and eau-de-nil silk net, and wore quaint filets round their heads. Just by way of being different, they all carried fans instead of bouquets. Five little fairies, in five little boxes with five little Christmas cards, were sent by Betty Blake, who was second prize-winner. Betty dressed her fairies in white lace, showing beribboned petticoats. Glinting beads of gold and silver shone like spangles on the little dolls which will gladden the hearts of sick children on Christmas Day. Betty Grimm’s Sunbeamer was dressed in her party frock of rose-colored silk net, and she carried a lovely curling white feather fan. (But even fairies cannot live in party frocks all the time, so Betty sent along a box full of neatly made clothes for everyday wear, and did not forgot even a tiny tin of powder to powder her nose.”
Of course, this touching story of generosity and human kindness is not complete without hearing about the sun fairies final destinations:
“THE SUN FAIRIES: How The Kiddies Loved Them”
I know that all of you who made a “Sun” Fairy will be delighted to hear how much joy they gave to the children who received them. Here are two letters which tell you all about them:–A.I.F. Wives and Children’s Holiday Association.
Furlough House, Narrabeen. Dear Sunbeams, — The dear little sun fairies arrived quite safely, and as fresh as when’ they left the designers’ hands. I am sure if the little donors could have seen the pleasure they afforded when received on Christmas Day they would be delighted to know they were indeed sun fairies in so much as they made radiance shine from each receiver’s face. With all good wishes to the Sunbeams from all the soldiers’ children at “Furlough House,” Yours sincerely, Ruby Fowle, Matron The second letter comes from Mrs Lyster Ormsby, who in the crowded streets of the city has for years sought to bring joy and sunlight into the lives of the little children there. Soup Kitchen for Little Children, 40 Burton-street, Darlinghurst. Dear Little Sunbeams,— I want to thank you for the dainty little ladies, fairies and babies the came to the Soup Kitchen during Christmas week. They came all neatly tucked away in a box, and was told they were to be given to some of the poor little’ girlies that I know as presents from “one Sunbeam to another. Well it happened that some of my little pals were hanging round when I unpacked your box and if you could have heard the “O-o-ohs” and “A-a-ahs” of admiration that came from them as I drew each dolly out of the box, you would have felt that you had sent a real sunbeam along. I gave your dollies away in many different quarters, and I feel sure you will be glad to know that each and every one received a warm and loving welcome from the new mistress. Among my little Soup Kitchen Girlies was one who has just left school and so felt too big for a doll. She always has a real live baby in mind-but still I could tell by the look in her face that she was just envying all the smaller girls; so I picked out a tiny kewpie doll that had been so prettily dressed in baby frills and I said: “I know you’re fourteen, Alice, and too big for dolls — (she thinks she is, you know) – but this is a Kewpie for luck and it goes on the rail of your bedstead. Would you like it?” She just loved it, and rushed off home to put it on her bed right away, “Good-bye, little Sunbeams, and a happy new year to you all from Inys Ormsby.”
And now we’ll back peddle just a little, and read Ethel Turner’s Christmas Day letter to her Sunbeamers:
A VERY MERRY XMAS FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN
Dear Young People,—
Do you know Anna? What Anna? Merry Christmas anna happy New Year. Yes, I know this is the seventh time you have been asked this same joke, but that is the best about Christmas Day, isn’t it, there is such a rosy, kindly light everywhere, that you are ready to smile seven times at anything and everything. I hope that you are, every one of you, as happy as larks to-day: the boy with the sixpenny humming top, as well as the one with the expensive aeroplane. Happiness, real lark-like happiness, isn’t a thing to be bought with money; it is a thing right inside you. There is really an amazing amount of it lying about free in a sunshiny land like this; believe me it is not shut up in those expensive toyshops, pleasant though those places are. Happiness is just a little light, bubbling thing that you make for yourself, just as the lark makes its song. Good-bye till next week. Do you know Anna?
I hope you have been each to absorb each of these letters word by word, and truly absorb an Ethel Turner who might appear idealistic, utopian and off with the very fairies she was passing on. However, aim low has never had much of a ring to it, has it?!! I personally found her sentiments so heart-warming and encouraging, and way too good to be lost for eternity in a bunch of newsprint.
So, I hope you and yours are managing to find some of that lark-like happiness this Christmas and carry it into the New Year as well.
 Ethel Turner, `Three Little Maids, pp 302-303.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 20 November 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 11 December 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 15 January 1922, page 2
As many of you will be aware, I’ve been researching WWI rather intensively for the last two years in what has emerged as a series of research projects. Those of you who also research in a more intuitive fashion and allow yourselves the luxury of pursuing all those twists and turns others might dismiss as “distractions”, “rabbit warrens”, will be familiar with the joy of discovering new worlds and perspectives you never knew existed, rather than simply proving your own point. It was this seemingly random fossicking, which led me to Australian author, Ethel Turner from an entirely different angle finding a message of hope, human kindness and generosity we sorely need today.
To do this story justice, I’m going to straddle the story of Christmas 1921 across both my blogs here at Beyond the Flow, and over at Tea With Ethel Turner. Here I’ll provide more of the social and political background and context to Christmas 1921 and why it was special while over at Tea With Ethel Turner, I’ll share how she made a difference to Christmas 1921 with her band of Sunbeamers.
While the 1920s is often portrayed as a time of unrestrained celebration after the horrors of WWI, the reality was much more complex and certainly Christmas 1921 was a time of very mixed fortunes. Sure, the war was over. The Spanish Flu was also officially over as well. On the 6th December, 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed seeing independence for Southern Ireland and ending the Anglo-Irish War. The Washington Conference was also promising peace in the Pacific. Yet, following his speech on the 20th December, 1921 Mr Stanley Bruce (the 8th Prime Minister from 1923 to 1929) who was representing Australia at the League of Nations, was described as “a supreme pessimist: sees nothing but trouble” after these dire warnings :
“SYDNEY, Tuesday.—Mr. S. M. Bruce, speaking at a National Club luncheon, remarked: “When one comes, back to Australia one is a little horrified to see what is going on. The whole of Europe to-day is struggling in a morass and it is doubtful whether it will ever get out. It is recognised if nothing is done to restore the economic stability of the world a wave of Bolshevism may spread all over the earth. We in Australia have a land where everything is good. Our country is the soundest of any in the world, but it is going to be faced, with the same troubles as the rest. We do not seem to have recognised this. We are only squabbling amongst ourselves.1.”
Gee, does this sound strangely familiar?
Anyway, here’s “Christmas 1921” which was published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on Christmas Eve, 1921:
For many thousands of people throughout the world this must be a “black” Christmas. Almost every country is suffering from the effects of those five years of war, during which production was stopped and the savings of decades were scattered. Thousands of families to-day will be clouded with anxiety because there is no longer a market for the goods the production of which has furnished them with a means of living and their breadwinners with employment. To other families Christmas brings back memories which, though they are colored with pride, arc memories of sadness. It seems impossible that in the lifetime of this generation Christmas shall ever be a season of unmixed rejoicing, except for the children, whose festival it is. Yet throughout the world it will be recognised that the Christmas of 1921 is more in accord with those universal ideals which it connotes than any that we have known for many years past. To-morrow men can take part in a festival of peace and hope without any reflection on the vanity of human effort or the insincerity of all professions of faith. The year has been one in which a genuine and fruitful attempt has been made to banish the dangers of war. For the first time for a hundred years the statesmen of the world have given a practical demonstration of their faith that peace should be the goal of their policy and is the greatest .of human blessings. The delegates to Washington have set aside personal ambition and national avarice in their work for the good of mankind. The delegates from Great Britain and Ireland have agreed that each nation may have failed to appreciate the point of view of the other, and that each must make sacrifices of its own beliefs for the sake of peace. And when these public achievements are noticed men will be driven back to remember the many private acts of beneficence that have been carried out during the past three years. “There is a budding to-morrow in midnight.” It may pass unnoticed while men are oppressed by the surrounding darkness, but it should be acknowledged when we have at last arrived at the dawning of an era of peace and goodwill. In almost every epoch there are lamentations at the incurable selfishness of mankind or at the degeneration of the human species, and invariably they are answered by convincing examples. Before the war we were told that the age of self sacrifice had passed, that men had degenerated physically and morally, that the virtue of patriotism would be practised only by barbarians. The last months of 1914 answered, that reproach. Never was there a clearer response to the appeal of idealism, never did men come forward more spontaneously to avenge and to rescue the oppressed. Every day of the blackest period of human history was illuminated by some act of devotion, when men sacrificed themselves for one another or for their cause, when the motive of self interest, conspicuous though it was, was less frequently exemplified than any other. Since attention has been concentrated on the struggle for the spoils of victory the nobility of hundreds of thousands of obscure lives has been forgotten, but to-day it can be remembered and can be acknowledged as of the same quality as the self-sacrifice which has been placed at the service of the famine-stricken peoples of Europe. To-day we may rejoice in the efforts made by statesmen to establish peace among nations. But while these same states men were manoeuvring other work more urgently and immediately needed was being carried on with even less regard for international boundaries. In Austria and Ger many citizens of the victorious countries have given their money and their services for the sake Of their former enemies. The war, though it has founded much hatred and bitterness, has produced the clearest practical recognition of the brotherhood of man. The period In which lamentations at the folly and avarice of men have be on most frequent, and apparently most abundantly justified, has again seen them answered by the most indisputable examples. “Man, what is this? And why are thou despairing? God shall forgive thee all but thy despair?” The same question might have been asked, and the same comment made at any time during the period which is now coming to an end. At no time has there been so much self-sacrifice; at no time have individual citizens been so ready to spend their lives in the service of their fellowmen, and, if necessary, to ignore the boundaries ‘between one nation and another. Was there ever a more heroic instance of such devotion than that given by Sir Arthur Pearson, who “turned his necessity to glorious gain,” and set himself to brighten-the lives of others stricken with the same infirmity as himself? In this last period the work of the individual has been -in contrast with that of the statesmen; but we cannot afford to forget it now that the statesmen are giving themselves to the furtherance of peace and concord. Rather the inference should be that the impulse towards peace and brotherhood is never dead, but moves forward continually until statesmen are compelled to reduce into the form of a. public document’ the desire of hundreds of thousands of their constituents. We cannot say to-day that these efforts towards pacification have been completely successful. Both at Washington – and In Ireland there are elements so blinded by tradition that they cannot obey the force of reason. But all the ‘omens for peace are good. Not since the reign of – Caesar Augustus have there been so many signs of unity among the nations that make up the civilised world, and not since the Great War ended has there been so good a prospect that the men who fought there will reap the fruit of their sacrifices In the elimination of one of the chief causes of future wars.”2.
I can’t help looking back at these precious people of Christmas 1921 with their varying degrees of pessimism and hope, but still probably largely believing something could be done. That the Wall Street Crash, The Depression along and WWII weren’t just around the corner, although the writing was already on the wall.
Those babies born at Christmas 1921 would be 19 years old in 1939. It is unthinkable that so many of them went on to fight on the very same battlefields as their fathers, and that Australia’s sons would also find themselves fighting the Japanese and defending home soil. Our women weren’t immune either.
Yikes, sometimes time travel isn’t much fun after all, is it?!!
Meanwhile, while I’m tapping away here about Christmas 1921, we’re watching the movie: Don’t Look Up. A comet is threatening to collide with the Earth and the response of Americans is let’s just say “a concern”. I know that while we’re focusing on covid, climate change is our big threat and most of us don’t see it coming either. I hope this movie isn’t too prophetic!
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Hauled up at home on a wet and overcast day with covid spreading like wildfire all around us, I feel like I’m talking to myself. However, I know you’re out there and I’d love to hear from you!
Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), Wednesday 21 December 1921, page 13
For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!
I would suggest that 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.
There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.
I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.
Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!
Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.
Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat) and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”
My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent. They want something cool.
THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:
Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:
“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”
So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!
Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.
Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.
Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.
I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.
Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.
Some were beautifully poetic:
“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”
“The dew of compassion is a tear”.
However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:
“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”
“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”
Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!
Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!
But to add further salt to the wound:
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!
However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:
Think global: Act Local.
We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!
That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.
” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas, we don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.
Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.
Surprise! Surprise! It’s me… Bilbo (Rowena’s original dog). I can’t believe I’m back from the very brink after surviving what became a highly controversial campaign to unite cats and dogs. Talk about setting a match to a fuse!!
You might recall that I’d jumped onto Mum’s brand new Twitter account with my infamous hashtag: #cats and dogs are friends. Much to my horror, rather than building bridges between cats and dogs, I actually attracted the wrath of both species and received multiple, very nasty, terrifying death threats.
Yet, against the odds, I have survived. I’ve been attacked by dogs. Attacked by cats. Yet, Lady, my fearless canine companion, has stood by me. She not only brought me food during my darkest hours of need, she also spoke out and refused to be a bystander. She wanted to take my message of peace to the masses and help them see reason. Where I had drawn all sorts of fancy equations all over my chalk board which made perfect sense to me but evidently to no one else, Lady was much more direct. Quite simply, as the cats and dogs were viciously fighting; gnashing their teeth, scratching, screeching, barking and growling; she very simply said:
Woodstock Festival, August 15 to 18, 1969. (Mum was 3 weeks old at the time, by the way!)
“Are you proud of yourselves?”
After all, sometimes even the most noble-minded among us can get caught up in our own cause and lose all sense of perspective.
Lady’s intelligent, quick thinking stopped everyone in their tracks. Don’t ask me how because such brawls between old foes have never stopped like this before. Suddenly and quite inexplicably, all eyes both feline and canine were fixed on my scruffy black and white friend, who although she’s called Lady, really is more of a “ruff ruff” in so many, many ways.
Lady called out again to emphasise her point.
Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s message still rings true: Give Peace A Chance. The trouble is how to maintain the peace when there is still so much evil in this world.
“Are you proud of yourselves?”
A unified sense of shame descended upon the rabble and there was absolute silence.
“We’ve been fighting long enough. It’s time for cats and dogs to mend our smashed and broken fences and build a new way forward based on tolerance and understanding. We have been fighting since the very dawn of time and yet we don’t even know why. What is our cause? We live in our separate worlds, apart from the odd exceptions who somehow manage to live in harmony, without any form of interaction or communication. Most dogs know no cats and most cats know no dogs. Indeed, this war has become some dreadful form of genetic hatred passed on from one generation to the next… just like our DNA. Indeed, we’ve even assumed it’s in our genes. That hating each other is who we are.” Lady said.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Lady declared and then paused. There was still absolute silence and all ears and eyes were on her and yet nobody really understood why. Lady was just a scruffy little black and white dog with more of a reputation for food thievery than an good example.
“Perhaps, Bilbo took his peace efforts too far too soon. Indeed, it might be too early for dogs and cats to become friends. However, as he said… small steps. He probably just got a little over-enthusiastic. We dogs do have a habit of that.”
“I do think, however, that Bilbo was on the right track trying to bring about change by applying the Golden Rule. I think we’ve all forgotten what that is.
The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Bilbo also touched on an revision of the Golden Rule:
The Inverse Golden Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated.
This is perhaps more useful for improving relations between cats and dogs. After all, we’re actually quite different and don’t really like most of the same things. Rather than being a stumbling block, these differences could actually be a good thing for friendship. We’re not actually competing for the same things. We’d be equal but different.”
It soon became clear that this once terrifying, violent mob of cats and dogs had somehow fallen under Lady’s spell.
Then she added: “If cats and dogs can mend fences, perhaps then those humans might even get along better as well. They can be an arrogant bunch…so convinced they have all the answers and are far superior to the likes of us but you never know. Seeing cats and dogs finally living together in peace might just give them the jolt they need. Then, we’ll all finally be able to sleep at night, instead of waiting for the bomb to go off.”
“I guess you could call it enlightened self-interest.”
Wow! I was stonkered by this transition in Lady. There I was thinking she was purely decorative and not any use at all. While I was hard at work, she was just battering her puppy dog eyes to get more treats. Then out of nowhere, she becomes the change which I’d been writing so much about. I was only ever able to theorise and philosophise but Lady could act and act she did. Firstly, by feeding me in hiding and keeping me safe. Then, she rallied behind the cause. Courageously confronting a dangerously out of control mob of angry cats and dogs, she brought about peace. They actually stopped fighting and from what I can see, we’ve all changed. Cats and dogs might never be friends but at least we’ve come to realise that this war is a choice. It’s not part of who we are. It’s not etched in our DNA. It can stop.
We live in hope!
Lady had been only one dog and very much a lone voice calling out through a very hostile wilderness. Yet, good triumphed over evil. Love and tolerance overcame hate, violence and judgement. We will never be cats and cats will never be dogs but it doesn’t have to be war and I can even sense forgiveness.
I was completely blown away by Lady’s powers of persuasion. Those puppy dog eyes work a treat!!
I’ve also learned a few things. While it’s good to have friends with the same interests and who are just like me, it’s also good to have some differences. I’d never thought of this before. As much as I love Lady, especially after all of this, we do compete over so many things such as: pats from the family, dinner, bones and tennis balls. On the other hand, that pesky cat… oops, I mean the nicecat from next door, leaves all of them alone. I could have them all to myself. That really should make us the best of friends.
Cats and dogs have been fighting for so long that we’ve become blinded to everything we have in common. Although I’m struggling to think of anything right off the cuff, I’m sure there had to be something. If only I could meet a cat and have some form of meaningful dialogue before it runs away, I could elaborate. Well, at least we have four legs, a tail and red blood.
Thinking about how Lady was able to achieve so much, perhaps Eisenhower was right after all:
“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Now, I am almost a happy dog. That’s pretty darn good for an old dog whose food bowl always seems to be empty. Forget about this half full business. Now, perhaps you’ll understand why I struggle to find the bright side. However, it’s good to be thinking about food again, instead of being being: “The Hunted”.
Yes, our world definitely needs a lot more love and a lot less hate!!!
When I got home, I sang Lady this song and we finished it together:
When you’re down and troubled And you need some loving care And nothing, nothing is going right Close your eyes and think of me And soon I will be there To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name And you know wherever I am I’ll come running to see you again Winter, spring, summer or fall All you have to do is call And I’ll be there You’ve got a friend
If the sky above you Grows dark and full of clouds And that old north wind begins to blow Keep your head together And call my name out loud Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door…
It’s time we bring back the niceometer and value niceness, instead of celebrating the very worst of human behaviour!
For some reason, being “nice” is now perceived as some kind of put down. Used to refer to someone who boring, bland or insipid, it’s used as a derogatory term – instead of something to be revered.
I say we need to bring back “nice”. Resurrect it from the dead and all nice people should sport their niceness with pride.
Nice needs to come out of the closet and strut its stuff.
I know being nice probably sounds very Brady Bunch but what’s so wrong with caring about your fellow human being and developing a bit of character? Shouldn’t we be encouraging giving instead of taking? Building community?
I was reminded again about the importance of supposedly old-fashioned niceness on Friday when we attended the finale of Fill the Boot, a fundraiser run by the Fire Brigade to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. We were there because my auto-immune disease is a neuro-muscular condition and I am a member of Muscular Dystrophy NSW. To read all about Fill the Boot, you can read my previous post and click here for the official web site: http://www.filltheboot.com.au/
We had such a fabulous day and experienced the very best of human nice and kindness that I had to share it. Here are a few vignettes from our Fill the Boot Day, which might just restore your faith in human kindness. I’ve listed them in chronological order as the day unfolded.
Some firies at the North Sydney Olympic Pool
Firstly, there was the fundraising by the firies. Firies are wonderful people who put their lives on the line everyday to save others. Yet, they found the time and energy to get out there and raise money for us and I really appreciate it! They managed to raise $100,000.00 for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. Yippee! That’s a lot of chocolate… oops! I mean research!
The kids with Luke.
Secondly, we not only met Luke Jacobz, Host of the x Factor, he actually spent time with us – real time. I have to laugh because when I first met him, he was wearing an Olympic gold medal around his neck and I thought he was one the athletes. Go Ro! I have watched the x Factor but I don’t watch a lot of TV and I’m certainly no celebrity chaser. I honestly didn’t recognise him.
Luke was genuinely very, very nice and one of those rare people who are very attentive and really listen to you. Mister and Luke had some very long discussions about something although none of us can quite remember what they talked about. I do remember Miss talking to him about her tooth falling out and how she’d found fairy dust on her hands the next morning along with a $5.00 note from the tooth fairy. As I said, Luke was very attentive and asked her questions and took a real, genuine interest. He wasn’t looking over his shoulder for someone more interesting to chat with. The kids really appreciated this. Not because he is the host of the X Factor but because he helped them feel special, loved and treasured. They were glowing. It really touched me to see them so happy. We have had some very tough times and it meant the world for me to see them smile and have so many deep belly laughs.
Kags & Mister
Kags from MDNSW also did a pretty good job at making the kids laugh and feel special too. I’ve been asked when they’re going to see Kags again.
Kags & Miss at the lunch.
The kids with Kate, Luke and the gold medal.
Thirdly, Cate Campbell shared her precious Olympic Gold Medal (or “mettal” as Miss called it) with us. It was only when I arrived home and was talking to my husband, Geoff, that the enormity of that hit me. The kids were able to wear the medal round their necks. When I was a kid, I wasn’t even allowed to touch Dad’s good crystal wine glasses. They were very, very precious. Yet, Cate trusted my kids, complete strangers, with her very precious, irreplaceable Olympic gold medal. This wasn’t just some plastic replica you find at the $2.00 shop. It was the real thing. That was very, very nice!
Miss with the gold medal.
Cate also spent time with us and I must say I enjoyed watching her swim. She took freestyle to a whole new level and had something like the grace of a swan. Needless to say, it was quite a different experience to what I’m used to at swimming lessons!
Fourthly, a fireman drove my car across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and into the Sydney Fire Station. I always feel a bit silly about my nervous driving even though I am spatially challenged. However, I was able to voice my concerns to MDNSW who sent Kags along as navigator. But then a fireman offered his services so how could I resist? I decided that driving home across the Harbour Bridge would be a better time to extend my driving prowess. As it was, because the fireman was driving, we ended up at the tail end of the street parade featuring the beautiful historic fire engine. It was quite exciting being part of the action.
The Kids with Blazer.
Fifthly, the firies gave the kids caps and toys. This might not sound like much but it meant the world to the kids. Mister was given a cap from the Sydney Fire Station, which is almost glued on his head. He loves it!! He even took it to bed with him. He was also given a patch from the Northern Territory. Miss was given a cap from the Tasmanian Fire Service, which was very special because Geoff comes from Tasmania. A firey from Brisbane’s Roma Street Fire Station gave each of the kids a fire fighting koala bear called Blazer. They love him. We have also been invited into the Roma Street Fire Station when we’re in Brisbane next and hope to get there in January. There were other gifts, I’m sure. The kids were spoilt!
I always appreciate that whenever I go to functions organised by Muscular Dystrophy, that I feel so loved, valued and accepted. I always feel like I’m floating along in a wonderful love bubble. This isn’t because people feel sorry for me or pity me but they do acknowledge what we are going through. I have found everybody I meet there truly inspirational and so encouraging. Pretty much most of us are living life to the max…our max anyway. I often find that when people are challenged by adversity they can actually achieve the most amazing things. People find strength seemingly out of nowhere and it’s just amazing and seemingly quite illogical
It’s now Monday night and that fire brigade cap is still glued to Mister’s head..
This morning when I dropped the kids at school, one of them piped up in the car and said: “we are the luckiest kids in the whole wide world.” That’s what being nice does. It builds people up. Helps them feel good and makes the world a better place.
In a world where being known as a “hater” in some circles is cool, I’d much rather be “nice”.
If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading my previous post The Love of A Stranger.