Saturday, 25 April 2015

Glorification or Gratitude?

My mother took me to the Anzac Day commemoration every year in memory of her brother Tom, who died at Ypres. From about the age of five or six I have distinct memories of the walk down silent streets in the dark, my hand in hers, to the white statue of the soldier with bowed head under a slouch hat and hands resting on his gun stock. With my mum I listened to the Ode and the Last Post and put a posy at the soldier’s feet.  Mum always cried. She didn’t have to tell me the occasion had nothing to do with glorifying war.
            As an adult I observed how poorly attended these commemorations had become. Media references by commentators and academics to ‘irrelevance’, ‘anachronism’ and ‘drunken old codgers drinking too much’ had brainwashed the younger generation into dismissing the Anzacs’ part in our history and it was now politically incorrect to value this part of our history or to be seen honouring the fallen in that or any other war. It was rare to see a person under fifty at a dawn service.
            But the tide has turned. In this year of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the crowds at dawn services across the nation have been nothing short of astounding. Children of all ages, teens and twenties, couples in their thirties, people of Asian, African, European and Middle-Eastern origin, all shoulder to shoulder in respectful silence listening to prayers of gratitude and speeches honouring the men and women who have represented this country in many arenas of conflict.

Section of the crowd at Tea
Tree Gull Memorial Arch  25/4/2015

My mother would have been happy to see this. But she would still have cried. Lest we forget.

Monday, 16 March 2015

 Don’t Sabotage Your Dreams

Why is it we think starting small is starting insignificantly? Oaks begin as acorns, flower beds begin with the first spadeful of turned soil, a cake begins with a cracked egg. Even Jesus Christ, who turned the world upside down, started life in a cow shed.
            Small steps teach us how to walk and walk well. A baby learns what the floor and the lower edges of cupboards and walls look like before it gets to explore the fascinating space at the back of a wardrobe (My parents used to hide my birthday presents there. It was an Aladdin’s cave of wonderful things I had to pretend I’d never seen!) A baby learns to negotiate the small space of one room as preparation for being let loose in the back garden and, ultimately, the world. A baby starts by focussing on what’s under its nose, but as it masters that territory it is able to command larger ones. Focus empowers adults, too.
            All too often our dreams are sabotaged by an obsession to be overnight success stories. If we start with what we have – one idea, a single follower, a minimal budget – and take the first steps toward growing that, we will build a foundation that can handle greater responsibility and success.                
             Recently, I learned how the leader of a rescue and support group for sex workers got her dream off the runway. She began with only one person. It was two years before she was able to help more, but what she learnt, step by step, with that first person was her training ground for all that is in place a decade later. How many of us would have given up before that? In the same circumstances how many of us would think, “I must have got it all wrong. I only imagined I had a great idea, a talent, a calling”. How many of us drop the dream, settle for the same old, same old, and never be what we were created to be?
            Focus, and one step after another, empowers us.