Many of you will know “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. It’s a really good book to show kids that things don’t always go to plan and by and large that’s OK. Tomorrow will probably be better.
I just had one of these days – well actually two of them back to back. I was supposed to be delivering training for the Teachers’ Training Agency in Melbourne and there weren’t enough takers so it was cancelled. Disappointing but early in the term so perhaps to be expected. I do tend to be overly optimistic. I flew down from Sydney Thursday because I was going to have a really interesting meeting with someone over lunch … in lieu of the first day of training. As I got off the plane I picked up a message to say that she was going to have to cancel. She had a really good reason but it was a bummer. Well, as it so happened I had contacted Jane Burns, CEO of Young and Well the previous week hoping for a meeting with her while I was in Melbourne and she said she was up to her eyes in the Connect 14 conference – but I was welcome to come. Well that was pretty neat compensation. Losing my reading specs was however, not so great (left them in the hotel room and eventually got them back) and my phone (ditto, was hidden in one of the many pockets of my capacious bag). I thought that that was probably my lot for the day until someone bumped into me in the Qantas lounge on the way home and covered me in carrot soup! Oh, and the plane was late!
So during all of this I ran a gamut of negative emotions – disappointment, irritation, anxiety, despair, frustration and being frantic.
So it was a bad day. But I have a home to fly back to and a life of comparative security and freedom. I know my kids are OK, that no-one I love is in imminent danger, there is good food for the table and I have health care when I need it. Those negative feelings are temporary and most already evaporated and replaced with more positive ones of calm, contentment and anticipation of a warm and relaxing weekend.
The asylum seekers in Manus and elsewhere have no such expectation – their hope of anything at all is being eroded, their lives barely worth living, their families still in danger. They have no home to speak of – anywhere. What must they be feeling day after day after day? Despair doesn’t even come close. How can we take our good fortune as an entitlement rather than be grateful for it every single moment, thankful we are not in their shoes. And yet what is happening? ‘These people’ are condemned for their powerlessness, their hopelessness and their situation – none of which is of their choosing. They just happened to be born in a place and at a time where danger and destitution are rife – and safety so precarious that many have risked everything to seek somewhere that might provide them and their families with at least the basics of a decent life. It could have been us, this could have been our life instead of the one we have been so, so lucky to have. Imagine for one minute if the tables were turned, the cards had been dealt differently. It isn’t just one very bad day – it is a lifetime of very, very bad weeks and years. Have some pity, Australia, have some humanity, have some decency. It is really beyond us to give these desperate people a little of what we have – or are we just as bad as those who turned their back on concentration camps?
Have a nice day!