Friday, 27 January 2012

“Love Australia or Leave”?

The letters to the editor have been filled, for the last week, with responses to the bumper sticker phrase, "Australia: Love it or Leave". That's a false dichotomy! I'd like to offer a third option, since as an Australian-born citizen of this country, the 8th generation descendant of Cornish immigrants, I can’t just leave. I am stuck here, with nowhere else to go.

But I don’t love the drunken violence that plagues our nightspots. So I never drink more than two glasses of alcohol at a time, and I don’t drink alcohol in public venues at all.

I don’t love the hoons who laid blackies on my street corner the other day, and I don’t love road rage. So I have begun leaving home earlier than I need, so I can drive in a calm manner that doesn’t inspire such rage.

I don’t love the way our society seems determined to communicate primarily through the internet. So I try to restrict my facebooking, emails and Skype calls to those people who live away from Perth and I ring my friends regularly and organise to meet with them face-to-face for a good ol’ fashioned chat.

I don’t love the way so many children seem to be growing up here without any sense of belonging or purpose, or even a basic knowledge of right and wrong. So I work for my church’s children’s ministry. I teach the kids that God is our Boss and we need to obey him, but Jesus died for us so our choices to disobey God can be forgiven – and God has given us two basic instructions to obey: love God, and love other people, our “neighbours”.

I also don’t love the way many couples choose careers and big home loans over time with their spouse and children. So my husband and I have chosen for me to be a stay-at-home mum since the birth of our first child, and I only began working outside our home part-time once our youngest child turned four. We’ve also decided to be content as renters, rather than buyers, so we aren’t forced into high-paying, long-hour careers.

I don’t love the way so many “boatloads” of potential refugees seem to be almost "invading" Australia, rather than immigrating here in an orderly fashion. I don’t love the thought that they might bring with them the very culture of hate they are fleeing. But I also don’t love the way these same “boatloads” of people (not export cattle as that description would seem to suggest) are locked up indefinitely in what amounts to a prison. So our family supports four sponsor children overseas, living in countries and conditions many would love to flee. And I’m trying to teach my own kids not merely basic commonsense politeness and kindness, but also compassion, generosity and mercy.

I do love my Sudanese refugee friends. I love their children, some born in Ugandan refugee camps and others born here, after the couple lived on separate continents for three years, when the wife’s refugee application was approved but the husband’s was not. So I show this love by taking them a box of fruit and veg each week, making their life here a little bit easier and helping them to get their “fair go”. And we’ve given money so the husband can bravely fly back to the new country of Southern Sudan to encourage and train native Sudanese pastors and evangelists, in the hope that the Christian message of forgiveness will make a difference in a country still riven by unforgivenness and torn by retribution killings.

I don’t like the new carbon tax, high petrol prices, or my escalating electricity bill. I also don’t like the thought that my over-use of the earth’s resources might make this earth inhabitable for future generations. So I’m learning to switch my appliances off at the wall when I’m not using them. I recycle so much my yellow-lid bin overflows. I fill my tank when fuelwatch says it’s a cheap day, and I walk where I can. We only water the lawn on our dedicated watering days.

I don’t like the epidemic of obesity I see all around me. So I’ve asked my doctor’s advice for ways I can lose weight and I’m following his suggestions. I’m eating smaller meals and exercising to a Jillian Michaels DVD six times a week. I’m trying to feed my kids junk food less often, as well.

I don’t like the way kids are growing up glued to screens, rather than playing outside or reading good books. So we limit screen time, even in the holidays, despite the whinging. We borrow audio books from the library, read aloud to our kids after dinner, and have taught our kids to read and to borrow their own library books. We have bought bikes, scooters, balls and water guns for our kids to play with. We’ve gratefully received gifts of a swing set and a trampoline, and my husband has built a tree-house. We're re-joining our local karate club and going to karate classes as a family. We wrote a letter to the local council thanking them when they put in a footpath so our kids could safely scoot or ride to the nearby playground without going on the road.

I don’t love racism. I do love my country, Australia. On Australia Day, I had morning tea with my friends, one born an Aussie, the other a naturalised citizen born in Zambia. I made plans to read the Bible with my Thai immigrant friend, who doesn’t yet speak English well enough to get a good job, but is working hard to bring up her son well as a single mum. I shared dinner with my neighbour from down the street, an Iranian woman who immigrated here this year and is looking for work as an engineer, and with an Australian who has spent much of the last decade living overseas as a missionary. And I smiled as my four kids, who with their looks could easily be poster children for a White Australia, ran in the rain under the glow of fireworks and lightning.

The truth is, I don’t always love Australia the way it is. But rather than leave, I’ve chosen to make Australia better. Even if I can only affect my own family and my own neighbourhood, my efforts will be worthwhile.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Holidays with Audiobooks

These holidays, as with previous holidays spent at home, our days have been ordered around two activities: swimming lessons in the morning and Individual Quiet Time aka Audiobook Hour after lunch.

We spent an hour a day for four weeks in the local pool and Sam passed Level 1 and Anna passed Level 4 and Level 5. Abigail practised Level 3 and Joshua struggled with floating and perfect form in Level 4. The physical exercise has been great for the kids.

Meanwhile, the quiet provided by an hour of kids in separate rooms reading their own books, or together in the lounge listening to an audiobook, has been great for me! Having something interesting to listen to has helped us all cope when 30+ and even 40+ temperatures have kept us cooped up inside for all but the very early and very late hours of our days.

(Jeff has also finished - after the better part of 2011 - reading aloud the Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkein, and I've begun reading the Borrowers sextuplet. Our after dinner read alouds sometimes get missed in the business of term time, but we really get into them during holidays.)

This summer, we have enjoyed the following audiobooks, for most of which we are very thankful to our local public library:

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The BFG by ditto
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by ditto
Charlie and the Great Glass elevator by ditto

Clarice Bean Spells Trouble by Lauren Child

Cry of the Cat by Emily Rhodda

Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery

We're finishing the holidays with The Incredible Journey by Shiela Burnford. It has indeed been an incredible literary journey.

Playing Church

Abigail invited her siblings to join her and the dolls and teddies for church this morning:Abigail chose to start with a prayer and then two songs, "No More Tears" (from A Very, Very, Very Big God) and "Away in a Manger". Anna read the Bible reading. Joshua served Holy Communion with bread and grape juice, after I had led a discussion of what the elements remind us of. Anna preached and Joshua taught the memory verse. Abigail led two more songs, "If You're Happy and You Know It (Praise the Lord!)" and "Praise Ye the Lord, Hallelujah!". All had a good time being "church" together!