Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Treasured Moments

This year it finally happened. The threat had loomed for a while but when the time came, it kept coming. He proved the next two times we played, that his victory wasn’t a fluke. 

For about four years now, my 17-year-old son and I have had a regular hit of squash up at our local RSL gymnasium. Up until this year, my title was unchallenged. I’m a bit old school when it comes to the debate about whether you play full tilt or let your kids have a chance against you in competitive games. Especially with our squash games, I have always shown no mercy. And when his turn came, neither did he.

You wouldn’t have seen it on the back page of your newspaper and it wasn’t the lead story in Sport on the evening news but, in June this year, whilst still 16 years old, Jack beat me 3-2 in a fiercely contested game of squash. He lead 2-0 and I clawed back thinking, “I’ve got him” and then, the rest is history - he allowed me only two points as he finished his dad off in the fifth game. I thought, “Right... next time, I’ll get him back”.

Well, next time, he beat me 4-1 and then for good measure, he got the same score the time after that. There was a definite pattern emerging in the way our games were going.

You hear about how the lion packs in the African Savannah working out who is the boss lion... the old lion often sees off some early challenges but eventually the young lion wins a fight and becomes king of the pride. During that first loss, whilst scrambling to try and maintain my title, I could see that he was bringing a new strength and pace to the game that I couldn’t match. Promise you, the fight went to the last point but when he won, a wave of pride washed over. He had done it... gone past his old man.

This was a treasured moment.

Everyday life goes on. Then something happens that marks a moment in time. Our kids have got to a new stage.

These moments don’t have to be contests. It can be a moment you become aware of sometime after a new change has occurred. My oldest Amber provided one of these moments this year, along with my mum. 

Amber actually stopped being a teenager this year (by virtue of turning 20). Life is flowing for her: just finished second year university; she’s recently done some house-sitting for friends; she has got herself a great steady part-time job and now, is driving her own car. She has been forging her own independence.

Somewhere along the way, I heard my mum start a sentence that will probably read as fairly ordinary to you. Mum and dad are still in the same house I grew up in. We are now on the other side of town.

Mum started “When Amber popped in again the other day...” Like I said, this would seem somewhat innocuous to you but as Amber’s dad, me and her mum have always driven her over to see my mum and dad. Now she was popping in, of her own accord, after uni. When she house-sat, she was closer to her grandparent’s house than to ours. Mum explained that Amber had been coming to visit just to say hello. Over the visits, an idea Amber has for a family film project grew. Amber is lucky enough to have a memory of mum’s parents - her great grandparents. My grandpa died in 2002 when Amber was nine. She remembers this kind old man who had lived a tough life. Grandpa grew up in the Depression. He was orphaned and built a life with his own family from this starting point of adversity. Amber is fascinated by her great grandfather’s story. She has developed a passion for documentary making at university. At a recent family gathering she asked everyone to be ready to share their memories of grandpa sometime soon on camera.

Mum told me that she had shared things with Amber that she can’t recall telling me or my brothers or sister. Mum said it was easier to talk about when she was growing up to her grand-daughter.

My daughter who it seems, just a second ago was a little baby I could hold in one arm... now has her own adult connection with my mum. It is their relationship. Amber’s got her own independent, creative ideas. Of course she has. It might read as obvious but when mum said, “When Amber popped over again the other day...” the sense of another wave of pride washed over. A treasured moment had visited again.

Almost invisibly, another stage in your child’s life is progressing to a point where some time soon, you’ll be right in the middle of a treasured moment. You’ll feel it right there and then – perhaps being delightfully confronted by the realisation that they have gone past you, like the young bloke did destroying me on the local squash courts. Maybe you’ll become aware sometime after the event - like I did with Amber – realising, “wow she seriously is a young adult now... she has an impressive generous imagination... she has her own family connections that she can pursue.

Sure, we drive each other crazy. We get things wrong a lot of the time with our kids. But hey, our kids surprise us. They can delight us with a treasured moment that says, they are on the way to being their own person, a young adult.


This story is posted on the last day of 2013. This is a good time to look back and wonder... where were those treasured moments for you as a parent, as a mentor to a young person? Give yourself a bit of Time & Space to wonder at the magic of your kids growing up.

 Bill Jennings

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Thanks for reading this year. As always feel free to write a comment in the space below. There are a few ways you can comment - if you choose anonymous, it is always appreciated when you put your name next to what you say. Have a grouse 2014.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Mungo - Busking for The Philippines

Some Time & Space Community people might know that Mem Fox’s picture book (illustrated by Julie Vivas), Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge gets a run in some of my presentations. It‘s a personal favourite. It is a story of a small boy who helps his ninety-six year old friend, Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, in the nursing home next door to his house. I love the way he takes action to help her because she has lost her memory.

In the last few weeks I have found out about another extraordinary boy who lives locally. This seven year old boy, named Mungo, saw a problem and simply responded...  

Through November I was in the UK delivering some Time & Space programs there. I flew out on Melbourne Cup Tuesday. Our family had been away for the weekend and I knew something bad had happened in the Philippines... a massive storm but I had my head down whilst delivering the programs in England and never really took in what had happened.  
The morning after returning home Lisa sent me up the road to buy some milk where I bump into Gurdeep, a friendly bloke who works at our local IGA store. Gurdeep I think is a Sikh. He wears a turban, a beard that would make any inner city hipster proud and always, a big smile.    

“When is your band playing next?” asked Gurdeep.

He was referring to a band I’m in called SHeD, a bunch of four dads who met up years ago when our kids were at the local primary school. Our by-line is Four Blokes and a Guitar and we practice in my shed. We play occasional Saturday mornings outside the ‘Miller-on-Gilbert’ shops to create a vibe that emphasises the difference between a local precinct and a monolithic retail centre like Northland. The local traders chip in a few bucks and when people go to offer us some busking money, we say “This is a gift from the traders, spend your money in their shops”. It works well but be assured, none of us have given up our day jobs.

I tell Gurdeep, “We’re playing this weekend.” Gurdeep is a big fan of any rock’n’roll - he appears at the front of the shop, clapping along if we are playing Holy Grail or a big Elvis Presley tune.

“We’ve had the little kid play out the front here... have you heard about the kid?” Gurdeep asks.

“No I haven’t mate, I’ve been away,” I respond.

“ He plays his little guitar and he’s been in the paper.” It is clear Gurdeep has been captivated and is excited.

So Saturday comes and Mungo is walking on the other side of Gilbert Road. He lives with his mum Kathleen and Dave, his dad in one of the shops converted into their home. Mungo sees that SheD are playing out the front of Menuki Hairdressing across the road from him. He pops back inside and appears with his ukulele in one hand and a newspaper article in the other.

“Oh”, I think to myself, “that little kid Gurdeep was talking about is Mungo!”

Our band have watched him grow up through the years... he has always stopped and listened to the tunes. He is a serious, reflective little guy. This time he played along with us. He knows two numbers, House of the Rising Sun  and Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da. Our guitarist Stephen, follows Mungo and we sing along with him. 

Here’s the back story. Mungo and his parents, were sitting at the dinner table and chatting about a story that dominated our news services in early November. Just like Wilfred Gordon, Kathleen says, “he is always asking questions” and his dad had been listening to the ABC news on the radio for the developing consequences of Typhoon Haiyan. It captured Mungo’s attention. As he asked more questions and talked with his dad, he started to imagine and understand simple comparisons about things we might overlook. Mungo wondered what it might be like to lose all his toys.

He also wondered if there was something he could do about it. At the dinner table that night, the idea that Mungo came up with was that he might be able to busk, playing his ukulele for the people of the Philippines as he once had made about $8 playing out the front of his shop front home. Dave, his dad explained about Oxfam, so he made a sign to that effect and people chipped in. Next Mungo was allowed to play outside the IGA. Oxfam heard through Mungo’s dad what he was doing and they gave him a temporary blog to track his goal towards raising $500. From there the photographer headed down and took some shots for the Herald-Sun story.

Mungo has just finished in Year 1 and as the Oxfam website states he has, in recent weeks, “shown you are never too young to be a role-model”.

Kathleen says that his Principal called him up recently at the Prep, Year 1 and 2 assembly and he started telling the Preppies that “a typhoon is like a really big whirlwind”. The school are having to review their policies as well as Mungo, as a Year 1 isn’t old enough yet to go on the student social justice committee! 
As the penny dropped and it became evident that Mungo had started a typhoon of goodness, I quickly checked with the boys in the band and all agreed that there was no way we could put the money the traders gave us that day into our own pockets. I went in to collect from Fiona the hairdresser who owns Menuki. She had seen Mungo playing with us and I let her know that the money today is going to his campaign. Instead of handing over the usual $20, Fiona doubles it and says “give him this as well.”

The next shop is Glo Beauty and as I tell Monique behind the counter, Mungo’s story, a lady who has just had a treatment is standing next to me, ready to pay. The lady’s name is Margaret, she hears about Mungo’s efforts and pulls twenty bucks out of her purse, hands me the money and says “give it to that wonderful boy”. Mum, Kathleen who is Mungo’s blog manager credits Margaret’s contribution. Mungo has well and truly surpassed his $500 goal and as I write the growing total is $3042 AUD for Oxfam. You can check out the current total here, even add to it if you wish. Mungo, this is mighty.

At the end of Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, there’s a beautiful line...

                And the two of them smiled and smiled
                because Miss Nancy’s memory had been found again
                by a small boy, who wasn’t very old either.

This post is sent out at Christmas. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not – Christmas has a huge theme of giving. The story that underpins Christmas has central figures who were homeless on that night – as the nativity narrative goes, the baby was born in a stable at the back of the inn with the ‘no vacancy’ sign... there are people right now, still homeless in the Philippines.

Just like Wilfred Gordon I reckon Mungo has helped us to remember what’s important.  His story has sparked the kindness in other people’s hearts... his action has been so profoundly simple that it has been easy for people to support and join Mungo in his cause.

 It is a powerful little example of how one person’s action can make the world a better place and on this occasion that kindness has come from Mungo... who isn’t very old either.

As always, thanks for reading - feel free to add your comments in the box below. You can click the Anonymous link to write a comment. It is always appreciated if you include your name next at the end of the comment.

Bill Jennings - Creator and Founder of Time & Space

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