Isolation, Community Pantry and Anzac Day


What a whirlwind this week has been! You can actually be busier than ever, stuck at home. Projects that were lying dormant, have been completed.

I had a dream about starting a community pantry, and by chance, the next day, my lovely friend, Lisa, mentioned that she wanted to as well! We put the call out for a suitable pantry-holder, and a friend dropped in a locker. Not only was it weatherproof, but cool enough for us to put some Easter eggs inside! Lisa printed and laminated signs for the outside, and we managed to fill it. We decided to put it at the back of the bus stop, outside our local park. Within a day, things were taken, and it filled my heart when I saw a teenager and his little sister shyly approach the locker. “Are you sure it’s okay to take stuff?” the little girl asked. They took a few items, and closed the door, and I saw them walk to a house near the park. As items are taken, more appear. If it provides a meal for a family, or saves people from having to go to the supermarket for one or two items, we are pleased. We sanitise it at least once a day. Times are tough for so many people. Many have never needed to rely on Centrelink, nor charities before, and it takes time to wrap your head around it. One of the bravest things one can do, is ask for help. Everything is cyclical; you are the giver in one instance, and you must accept help in turn.

 

There was a rap at my door last weekend, and I was surprised, as nobody comes to visit at the moment! Standing on my porch, was my friend, Donna. She runs Butterflies Florist, and was holding a bouquet of flowers. It reminded me of how birds call out to each other when they can’t be seen. They are letting each other know that they are okay. At dawn, they call out to assure their compatriots that they made it through the night. This felt like a call from friends I hadn’t been able to see since this began.

 

Another dear friend (knowing my love of hummingbirds), dropped off a piece of art at my front door.

 

Yesterday was Anzac Day, and for the first time, we weren’t able to attend a communal dawn service, and see friends afterward. I felt for all the veterans and their families, for whom the day was usually set aside to connect with each other. They must feel bereft. My daughter and I held a dawn service in our driveway, and it was haunting; the Last Post playing from my television, as we stood in silence. Daybreak was smeared with honey and saffron hues, and kookaburras started laughing. A friend mentioned that she was going to her volunteer shift at Lifeline, anticipating a busy evening. Calls have escalated since all this began, which is no great suprise. As I walked around the neighbourhood, I saw wreaths woven from rosemary, tied together with red ribbons; poppies decorating front yards. One lady had a basket of rosemary out, asking passers-by to take a sprig for remembrance.

 

I am apprehensive about the gradual return to school, and as it turns out, so are quite a few teachers and principals. The following was a post from a friend of mine at the coalface, posted with her permission:

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On a positive note, I have trained my little dog to fetch the paper and pamphlets. She hasn’t quite grasped letting it go though, demanding that I chase her! On every walk, I find that I am noticing beauty as never before. It’s as though with the absence of distractions, we’re able to appreciate beauty more readily. I hope that this remains when we come out of hibernation.

ANZAC Day


The past week has been a whirlwind of epic proportions. My daughter and I went on the RSL Rural Commemorative Youth Choir camp, which was extraordinary, in and of itself. The choir was kindly hosted by Concord RSL, a friendly little club with a community emphasis. We pitched tents out the back and were supplied with a food van, BBQ, showers and the auditorium for practices. We were made to feel welcome from the moment we stepped over a pond housing gold and orange koi fish, and into the entrance.

The kids played barefoot bowls in between rehearsals and services. Speaking of services, last Friday the choir sang at the Anzac Field of Remembrance Service at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney. Gwen Cherne spoke about her experience as a contemporary war widow, and there wasn’t a dry eye afterward. Real and lasting change is being brought about as a result of brave soldiers and widows/widowers speaking out. You can read her speech here.

The choir was also honoured to sing at an Anzac dawn service at the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway at Concord, organized by Concord Repatriation Hospital. 3000 crochet poppies were lovingly pinned on a giant cut-out of the word ANZAC. A grand lady of 94 and her daughters had knitted 900 poppies alone. I had the honour of meeting Albert, a 102 year old veteran with twinkling blue eyes. As we chatted, he talked of his teenage years in the employ of Farmers Department store in Sydney, and of the mischief he would get up to. He spoke of dances and hope. He made me promise to never lose my smile, as he believed that a part of humanity perishes with each down-turned mouth. If he can still smile radiantly at 102, I think I can manage to keep grinning!

I talked to another veteran about what ANZAC day meant to him. He replied that to him, it wasn’t about particular battles, but rather the spirit, which must be preserved. It is a holy essence containing mateship, dedication, freedom and the hope of peace for all humanity. Every veteran I have ever met has expressed the fervent wish that the past shall never be repeated. War is hell, of that they can assure you. My Canadian Grandfather was in the Army during WW2, and I have been surrounded by those in the armed forces. I have had the pleasure of loving friend’s children who serve as medics, peacekeepers and whom are there to help out in natural disasters. I was in that clinic at fourteen with veterans suffering what is now known to be PTSD. The conversations we had were among some of the most meaningful of my life.

This Anzac day, I am grateful to be a part of the RSL Commemorative Youth Choir. The kids are able to learn from and interview older people, which is a real privilege. They also step up to be leaders, gifted with many opportunities to speak up and speak out for causes they believe in. They are taught about fairness, discipline and mateship. The future of the Anzac spirit is in good hands, with unprecedented numbers of young people attending dawn services across Australia. The hard work of honouring the sacrifices of past generations has only just begun. At its core is a plea for peace, the spark of which is in all of us. We can start where we are, in our communities. ‘Lest we Forget.’

The Beach They Called Gallipoli


I shared a special moment with my daughter this morning. I bought her a copy of The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley last night, and we sat down together to read it. Before we began, I commented on how young the soldiers were. “They were mostly boys,” she replied sadly. She talked about the nurses who served and comforted, and the power of crimson poppies to represent the sacrifice of the ANZACS. It was a challenge, trying to explain war when I don’t understand it myself. It was easier to highlight sacrifice and outstanding courage. “I want to go to the dawn service on ANZAC DAY,” she said. “Me too,” I replied. It is a beautiful book, published on this, the centenary.