Archives for the month of: October, 2012

A few days ago I met my arch-enemy. From primary school, that is. I don’t really think I’ve had one before or since, but the memories came back when I met her…

 

I was in grade 5 and it was primary school choir. My Catholic school (Mary McKillop) was too small to have our own choir, so we joined up with the Penola Primary School for the Public Schools Music Festivals. So joined in song, we interacted across the great school divide. It was my first year of choir and I wanted to try out for a solo part. I had a song in mind and had been practising, but one day the music teacher listened to us Mary McKillop kids back at our school to see if we had potential for the solos. She found that I could sing high notes, so she recommended that I try out for a different, higher, solo. Well, I practised and practised, feeling quite flattered that she thought I was good enough.

 

But then solo-tryout day arrived. We sat nervously waiting for each solo-seeking child to go up and perform at the front. I remember an older boy, who seemed much too tall for primary school, rocking back and forth on his chair, as worried as the rest of us. When it came to my turn, I sang my solo a bit hesitantly, but not, I thought, terribly. But there was another contestant! She was tall and pretty and I think a couple of grades ahead of me. She sang and it must have been better, because she got the part. I thought, “For the first time in my life, I would be happy if she dropped dead right now!” I took some jealous pleasure in the thought, knowing it wasn’t true but glorifying in having a true-blue enemy. 

 

I think the feeling wore off and, though I don’t think I talked to my defeater again (mainly because I wouldn’t have seen her outside the choir practice), I didn’t harbour ill-feelings. But the memory of being usurped has obviously remained. A few days ago I met her at a church breakfast in another part of the state entirely. As soon as she started to speak, I knew her name instantly. I of course regretted the enmity of which she’d never known, and admitted that I’d been envious of her in the choir. What a lovely surprise that she was about to get married in the coming weekend and I met her fiance too. He was glad to hear about her singing talent, of which she hadn’t spoken.

 

“Love your enemies” Mat 5:44. It’s easy to do when it happens like this. But it also shows how deep-seated the memory of hurt is. Would that all who appear to do us harm could become friends instead and that we have a chance to make amends for hurting others in the past. Many blessings for her wedding!

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The refugees we visit at the detention centre have had 2 big wins this week. The first you may have heard of. On Friday, the High Court ruled in favour of a refugee in the same situation who brought a case about indefinite detention following a negative security clearance. While we don’t know exactly what that will mean for these refugees, it is certainly a step forward. They are currently in complete limbo, as they have been found to be genuine refugees, so can not be sent back to Sri Lanka. Yet they also can’t stay in Australia and no other country seems to want them. But now we hope a door might be opened for them to move forward, at least to have some legal process.

The second win was at soccer!!! Tonight was the grand final of the local competition and the refugees have fielded a strong side in division 2. I started going to watch them early in the season and soon got roped in to playing myself! Fortunately my lack of skill was not so evident as I joined a team that made it proudly to the bottom of the ladder. We had fun and tried our hardest, but were no match for a team such as the All Stars. The All Stars were so named by a previous group of refugees who played the local soccer and it stuck. They had wins for much of the season and should have easily got into the finals, but lost the qualifying final. As they were the top team, they got a second chance and came back easily to win the semis. Now, tonight, everything was very serious as they played the team they had lost to in the first final.

I’ve never been interested in watching ball sports, but I’ve found it so much fun when I know the players. The game was really on edge for the first half. Both teams played hard and no one got a goal until finally All Stars got one before the half-time whistle. I don’t know what happened in the break, but when they came back, All Stars led all the way. The other team got one goal, but the refugees ended up with 6. There were some very specky ones, with slides and the ball finding its way between multiple players to the goal. I wished there was a video of it, so one could see “magic moments” later on in slow motion. One day…One day they will be out, one day they will be able to go to soccer presentations (not possible now because they serve alcohol at the venue!), one day they will not be playing to distract themselves from the hopelessness of their situation. One day, it will be a win greater than soccer grand finals, God willing.

This week I’ve been involved in a group activity that shed some light on the Book of Job. Monday’s reading in our church was the start of the timeless classic story of the hard-done hero that ends up denying any easy answer to the problem of evil. But philosophy is not what touched me this time. It was this exchange between the Satan character and God in the tale:

God: “Have you noticed my servant Job, and that there is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil?”

Satan: “Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing? Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land.”

What got me about this was that, yes, it is easy to be good if we have always been privileged in life. On the weekend I went to a facilitator training workshop for a program that helps young people see the issues in their world and make commitments to work towards positive change (www.generationwakingup.org). What was most amazing about this was that the facilitators ranged from 12 years old to over 40. At one point we did a group activity where we all stood in a line and were asked many questions like: “Take one step forward if your parents went to university.” “Take one step back if you or your family struggled to pay the rent.” As it went along, I stayed near the front, as I would have expected, having a very privileged upbringing. After awhile, I started to lead the whole group and when we eventually finished, I was still the person slightly in front. This was actually a very confronting experience. Although I did feel grateful for my good life, I could not help but feeling ashamed that I had so much while others (even the comparatively well-off group that we were) had so little. They have had to deal with so many more difficulties in life, yet here they were, putting everything into making the world a better place. ‘Inspiring’ was a word that came up often during the training, but this was definitely the appropriate moment to use it: the youngest facilitator of them all had ended up at the back. I think Satan would have had no quarrel with that 12-year-old!