It was so Dickension – the moment I headed off to the paper supply office at my school.
I had gone back into the public system after being in a small alternative school and this was my journey back into the mainstream system.
I was on what was called the ‘free list’ which meant our family was now so poor I was eligible for free paper.
The office shop lady gave me her usual once over disdainful look and said ‘And why do you need more paper so soon? Weren’t you here a short while ago’
After causing her usual amount of discomfort through a quick draw ‘you sure you need this paper’ stare. She handed it to me anyway, but I went away wondering how to write smaller and squeeze more into less space.
It wasn’t my fault I had so much to write for my assignments.
I was doing well with my book reports, social science and English projects and poetry. ‘More paper please,’ was all I could say.
I just kept going back for paper and writing more stories.
Our year 6 teacher was a former football coach and he believed in applying all his footy coaching tricks to his students. He liked to coach us in life. We ran laps of the school every day to stimulate our intellect by having our bodies fit. I remember doing ten laps I was that keen to have my brain work well.
He was imaginative, and had us deck our whole classroom out as an Egyptian scene, complete with pyramid to read in. I wrote poetry about Egypt as we were studying Ancient history and performed it at the school assembly. This was one of my highlights of year 6.
He encouraged us to make our assignments well presented in terms of how they looked, as well as the content. This was the year I learnt how to use pencil shavings to colour my paper. It was the year I mastered my cod cursive handwriting and went up 4 years in spelling age. As a treat if we did well in class or finished work early we could go and collect a mind puzzle from the school office and then solve it for the rest of class.
I collected many fun puzzle times.
One of my proudest moments was winning a big maths puzzle, that was set for the upper grades. It was a number find I think. I won a Rubics cube, back when they first came out.
Year 6 was an amazing school year, and although that office lady and I never saw eye to eye, I began to realise that there was a power in being able to write, speak and present words.
I had many opportunities, but was unable to afford school camp. Instead my memory is of two other girls from that year staying back from camp also, and we had to plan an interstate trip we would make with travel brochures. We had to do all the costings and list the places we would visit. I miscalculated some of my travel time, and was told I would be booked for speeding, but apart from that my assignment was sound.
At the time I had never been across the Tasman, to what Tasmanians call the mainland. Yet my Mum came from a far away land, Papua New Guinea and I had come out from PNG when I was under two. I didn’t know about travelling anywhere but Tasmania.
There were many other adventures and wisdoms learnt in year 6, but most important of all it was definitely a time I came to see the power of the written and spoken word.
I didn’t know that the future would hold many travels and I would make some the journeys in that assignment. Yet, even though I adore the power of the written word I often wonder –
How much of the eternal spirit can we capture on mortal paper?
Born into privilege, born into poverty, born a certain colour, a certain gender, the beginning of life sets the scene and then we try to determine our fate, as those around us also try to determine theirs.
Why me? Why did I have the opportunity to grow up in a country where there is social welfare, relatively free education, safety nets, political and religious freedom.
Why did others grow up where there was none of these things?
As a child of the diaspora I find myself reflecting on this a lot lately, what can I do for those who are fated to be of my mother’s beloved country, Papua New Guinea?
Can I just be satisfied bringing my family up to be peaceful as Mother Theresa is famously said to have said to those seeking world peace?
For the last few weeks I just get an awful feeling in my stomach when reading the news. I look for miracles for the blog, but it seems everywhere the world is in travail.
People cut off heads at football matches, world woman celebrity is possibly in a domestic violence situation despite her empowered status, and now she escapes but in silence, my mother’s beloved country, Papua New Guinea, has escalating levels of violence and ill health. And on top of that people in privileged countries turn to ‘legal’ drugs they can order online to receive some sort of rush and youths commit suicide or can’t find work.
Is there something I can do beyond remember and acknowledge these things happening and beyond just raising my own family, and taking care of people in my own town. I think of incredible women standing up for human rights, and being slaughtered and raped, and it is soul wrenching.
What if fate had put me in a different country, without this privilege I recognise fully that I have, what would I expect, accept, understand? What if? What has made me who I am?
I think of Buddha’s journey beyond the confines of his upbringing, to gain spiritual insight, to understand suffering. I think of how so many of us need to go on that journey, but we can through both physical, spiritual and emotional travel. I think of Baha’u’llah’s journey to the Prison City of Akka, and all those spiritual teachers, who suffered to promulgate the values of peace, compassion and love. Their actions, not just their writings, inspire. They are the real deal. Their lives are their proof.
The miracle of life is that those born with privilege are not all blind, uncaring, but want to reach out, to make a difference and address social injustice. They are not made uncaring by what they have.
I think of my mother sending to her home everything we have spare, raising money for hospital beds, always helping others. Yet, losing one of her sons and having the others go through very difficult times. Being born into opportunity is no guarantee. I think of people who have nothing, inspiring others to rise up to become the most incredible human beings, and who through their God given gifts, set out to change the world. Helen Keller! Amazing.
I think of the time in my life where we my family lost so much, and kindness was shown to us, from people we did and didn’t know. It gave us courage, it gave us fortitude and it allowed us to bounce back.
May the miracle of understanding and motivation come to all of us privileged to have opportunity and freedom to make the most of that freedom not only for our own benefit for that of others. This week I’ll be thinking about the role of the artist and beauty to play a role in the building of miracles and thinking about some organisations making a difference to many in need of a helping hand to find their opportunity and make the most of their gifts.
Have you been able to make the most of what you have for others as well as your own family, how has this made you feel?