Christmas, 2014

I didn’t quite know what to do with Christmas 2014. Miracles have transpired this year, though also much tragedy. The answer came in the form of the beautiful Donna. She delivered boxes, which filled up my garage on the 23rd. My daughter and I had a ball sorting through them, making bags to give to Street Pax, putting together personalised hampers and two carloads of goods for The Exodus Foundation. It gave me a focus, in the midst of great sadness. My little girl was thrilled to be an elf.
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We went to St Mary’s Cathedral, and witnessed the spectacular light show.
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The atmosphere was reflective, given current events. Families celebrated together and children made new friends, unafraid and full of excitement.

She dipped her toes in the fountain.
She dipped her toes in the fountain.

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As my daughter busied herself with decorating cookies for Santa, my thoughts turned to Serena on Christmas Eve, and the precious mother and young sons she had left behind. I would have called in on her, but she wasn’t at home. I needed to go for a drive, and found myself at Martin Place, where the Salvation Army were having their carols.

Martin Place
Martin Place

The atmosphere was defiant. There were more people than usual. We all needed to be there. I met a lady who asked for directions. She was in her sixties and told me that she had invited her friend to accompany her, but she was too frightened to come. “I am glad you weren’t,” I smiled, squeezing her hand. We watched as the Salvation Army performed with their timbrels.
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Afterward, we walked up Martin Place, past the Lindt café. A food van was parked, and the area was teeming with the homeless and those on the periphery. They smiled at my little girl, and we stopped to talk with them. Tears sprang in my eyes. So many people. The hidden and forgotten in our society. Thank God for those whom refuse to discard them. They are people, as worthy as you or I. The true meaning of Christmas was found here. My daughter asked questions, and it made her more determined to do good in this world. I have been in refuges, and know of many who are but a few pay slips away from here. In the midst of it all, we managed to visit a few friends.

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Love is what its all about.

I received some heartfelt gifts.
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This beautiful print from Luke Clenton Photography. He is incredibly talented, a friend’s teenage son.

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I cried when I received this, a montage of Serena and I. Oh, how I miss you.

Christmas Day, we went to Ashfield Uniting Church, and heard a profound sermon from Reverend Bill Crews. I opened a bottle of champagne at home when a friend called in, then we spent Christmas night with a dear family.

I also spent time with this bloke.

I also spent time with this bloke.

A turbulent Christmas was salvaged by love. Overtures of kindness from strangers in Martin Place, through  to cuddles and cards from friends. Foster kids living on my street gifted my daughter a gorgeous teddy bear. There is still light, and there is certainly still hope. We just have to build upon it.

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Wherever you are in the world, and however you celebrated this season, we are all connected. As we reflect on 2014, and prepare for the new 2015, let’s keep the kindness up, not forgetting ourselves. We have to be replenished before pouring benevolence onto this suffering world.

Runaways.

af14922d-da76-4c2d-88f4-14204f5161aeIn the last two days, I have heard three stories of runaways. Two of these people are now adults, and happily survived their tumultuous history. The other story I heard of, is about a little girl. We don’t know the full details as yet, only that she has been found. We hope she is happy, my friends and I. I was filled with dismay at how quick commentators on social media were to judge her. They said she needs a belting, to be screamed at, demeaned, reduced… Twenty years after my time,  it seems as though empathy is not forthcoming from all. A man I greatly respect told me that he slept on the streets of Sydney  for four years  as a youngster. He chose homelessness over staying in a house with a violent father. Another friend left at sixteen. “It was either run or die.” Some choice. I ran away for the first time at four years of age. I wanted to make it to my friend’s house. It was calm there. Instead, I was pursued, then beaten, and told  that I would never get away. It didn’t stop me trying. I wanted the pain to stop, to see who I could be and what I could do in this world. It was a positive gesture, assuring those on the periphery that I valued my life and wanted to live. I wanted to try.

13 Years.
13 Years.

Bad men came forth with generous offers of places to stay from twelve to fourteen. “How kind,” my mind whispered, before a cacophony burst forth from my intuition. “They will destroy you!” I declined numerous offers, and watched in despair as two of my young friends died whilst being sheltered by these characters. I rang a host of numbers on a payphone at fourteen, begging someone, anyone, to help me. The criterion was very specific, and you had to fit into the parameters. I was told I was too young, too old, and on and on it went. At fifteen, I was found after running away from a clinic. I was taken to the local police station. When I was told I would have to sleep in the cell in the corner, and I gratefully thanked them, they knew things were bad. They found me a bed in a refuge, the only bed free in the whole of Sydney. I was taken there at 11pm, and a bleary-eyed social worker opened the door. I fell on top of the mattress in the share room, and lay awake, wondering what was going to become of me.

 

In the morning, the boy’s came from their room, and we from ours. There were eleven of us. We sat at the battered dining table, and a young man wondered aloud what would happen to him when he turned sixteen, in a week’s time. He was trying to go to school, and would soon be without a bed. I was shown a binder filled with resources for kids like myself. You could have a shower here, then lunch here. By a miracle, a bed might show up over there… Nothing was coordinated. “You have to do a lot of travelling when you’re on the streets,” the social worker said. I came to the refuge with nothing, and the toothbrush, washer and soap I was given meant the world to me. I felt as though my identity had been reduced… Over the years, I have known many runaways, both teens and adult survivors of abuse. Their leaving had nothing to do with tiffs over freedom. Rather, they were fighting for their lives.

 

A friend of mine runs Street Pax, a wonderful incentive she started alone. She sources donations of useful foodstuff and toiletries, and prepares packs. She then delivers them to those on the street. They are always gratefully accepted. I will never forget my toothbrush, washer and soap. For further information, or to donate, please go to Street Pax on Facebook.