By Ann Rennie, Teacher, Genazzano FCJ College
On the noticeboard in the kitchen the following quotation is pinned up next to school timetables, netball fixtures, overdue reminders and postcards from the past. It is a yellowing fragment from the 19th century poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, whose bronze statue is sited next to Parliament House in Melbourne.
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
I have always admired its sentiment about those perennial standard-bearers of the best of the human condition, kindness and courage. Kindness is a word that rarely makes the headlines, as courage often does, but it is the unsung glue that keeps communities together.
The recent bushfires have scarred lives and landscapes as we learn the harsh lesson of the beauty and the terror of our homeland. We have seen and mourned the charred cemetery of houses and business and schools and churches. Firefighting husbands will never come home again, country kids will worry about the safety of life in the bush and the blue sky swoon of our summers of the past has been replaced by a new narrative that incorporates the unhinged fury of a burning apocalypse.
Our summers will never be the same again.
But after these dark days, the light emerges. Out of ash and dust and the stark spears of scorched forest people will start again. They will emerge from the numbness and devastation and stumble forward carrying each other’s shock and sorrow to recreate their communities. They will rebuild lives and remember loved ones and they will know that others share their burden. The spirit of mateship will be at work amongst them, in that solidarity of standing together, shoulder to shoulder, as they remake home and hearth. They will know that our wide brown land is not so wide that we cannot feel each other’s pain. Fond memories will be held tight and stories and laughter and jokes and new-forged myths. The tender mercy of time will keep the lost alive. Mary Anne Radmacher reminds us that Courage does not always roar; sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying “I will try again tomorrow”.
There are times when life is full of froth and bubble - when we acknowledge the capricious comedy of errors that underwrites the experience of living. But this very capriciousness can turn into a harsh and unforgiving reality. This is what the world faces now. Within and beyond the borders of our own internal fear and anxiety, widespread and multiplying, we hear voices of end-of-world despair and resignation and a siege-mentality. We are told we are on a war footing. We are scared. We look for guidance.
Now, in this time of pandemic and panic, we need to heed voices of common-sense and solidarity and kindness. We know that there will be losses in many areas so this is where we need courage and kindness in abundance; in families and workplaces and schools and shops and on the streets that are increasingly empty. We need to gather in the goodness that we saw in the bushfire response and know that we are bigger and better than behaviours that are selfish and opportunistic and downright mean. We might be in lockdown, but that does not mean other people are locked out. We just have to connect in other ways. This will be a time for resetting and reframing, learning to live differently.
After this we will look at ourselves in a whole new way.
Our lives will never be the same again.
John Donne reminds us No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. We are not solitary beings, but intimately connected to each other through family or friendship. Our very humanity charges us with caring for others of our kind. We are kin and kindred and we should be kind.
Stone still stands despite fire and flood and disease, scarred, blackened, pock-marked and weather-beaten; still standing implacably, defiantly solid in the landscape like that rock of ages, Uluru; monolithic and magnetic in the centre of this great south land of the Spirit.
So, too, in the landscape of our hearts.
Kindness and courage.
Still standing like stone, reminding us of who we are and who we can be when it really matters.
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