Did your child sit down to start their final high school exams last week? What a rough week for them- all their hard work throughout school, all your support in getting assignments done, studying for tests, overcoming challenges with peers, culminating in one big pressure-point week. Were they stressed? Too nervous to eat the breakfast you prepared for them? Did they chatter too much in the car on the way to school, or not enough? Such a momentous time, one of the rites of passage into adulthood, and they will get through it because you have been there all along, you are there today, able to provide love, support and security.
Another child sat the English exam yesterday, after an altercation with the emotionally abusive father of her six-month-old baby, from whom she had been hiding for a month.
Some of our children, our Australian, lucky country children, are living extreme lives of chaos and anxiety. Cyclical poverty is just the undercurrent, the common thread. Good people are trapped by circumstance (there, but for the grace of god, go I), beautiful children are born. Beautiful children are damaged into adulthood. The opportunities aren't the same. I have worked with lots of good people. Good parents and their good children. Little kids with blackened, or removed, front teeth from a simply lacking diet. Your diet probably would be lacking too, if your town had no food shops (unless you count the vending machine in the pub), and you had five kids to cart on public transport and extremely limited funds. Kids who found it more comfortable to sleep on the dirt under the house when mum's friends came over. Kids who could barely look at you sideways, or would erupt in the most violent outbursts imaginable, if you looked at them sideways. If you are unaware or doubtful of the shaky ground on which some of our children live, please watch the Four Corners episode about Claymore, one of Australia's concentrated social housing areas.
As I agonise over the decision to buy store brand milk or make the switch to organic-unhomogonised, I take a moment to be grateful for the luck that saw me born in the time and place where I was. To have had attention and language as a baby. To have been fed and read to as a three year old. To have been asked How was school today? To have been safe and unhurt. To have been loved and nurtured. I feel a shudder of helplessness. Or maybe it's just the cold of the milk fridge. Not very far from my privileged, but ordinary, upbringing, there are kids struggling. I don't know what the answer or solution is. Obviously, I believe education is one of the keys. The only thing I can say for sure, is that it is compassionate, empathetic people who make a real and lasting difference in the lives of kids who are struggling. Of people who are struggling.
Want to help? Withhold your judgement, but give your compassion freely. Close your eyes for a moment and really imagine, how much of a priority you would give to your child's homework if you didn't have enough money to replace the blown light bulbs. You may like to sponsor an Aussie child, through the Smith Family. A monthly donation of $39 makes sure a schoolkid in our lucky country has breakfast in his belly, pencils in his bag, the opportunity to attend excursions, and a person involved in their life to support them at school. A couple of keys, to open the door out of poverty.
(Blogging for BAD, inspired by Eden)