Tag Archives: Desmond Tutu

Mycelium 2023 #4 : Reading Challenge

Strengthening the undergrowth starts by feeding the soil and helping the spores land in fertile soil. This week I had a glorious experience of being at the finale of the Mayor’s Summer Reading Challenge. This is a summer holidays activity where school age children are set a challenge. It was all set to start just after I was elected and I talked with the team leader delivering the program in my earliest days in the new role to see how the program could be taken to the next level.  As a result the number of books to be read to complete the challenge went up to seven books and an additional quest was added in for those who wanted to be extended a little bit more which was to visit all six libraries, and we added in some features about the books to be read such as something about First Nations and something about climate.  

Around 240 young readers signed up for the challenge and seventy were there for the Finale to receive their certificates from me and a free book. 34 of the readers completed the extra piece of visiting all six libraries. One Mum told me they did their “Great Race” in one day calculating distances between libraries, how much time they could spend at each location, and building a whole day out around the locations.  Enthusiastic staff commented on the high amount of engagement with readers coming in, parents sharing their old favourites from childhood and borrowing more books themselves.

When I arrived at the host library site, there were over a 100 children, adults and staff ready to celebrate their efforts. As 2pm arrived the room stilled to silence, there was no big announcement, no bell to say we were starting the room just fell respectfully into silence. Such a contrast to the experience I had on Tuesday night at the Council meeting where before I had started the meeting a person from the Gallery was yelling at me and then the meeting had to be adjourned because of public disturbance and an inability for the public to be quiet enough to hear proceedings. If you’ve been following along you will know there were around 20 police and security involved to clear the Council building. The stories are all in the media so you will find them there. But back to the quiet of the library. I am moved by this action of families and children getting ready to listen and to acknowledge their achievements.  Books and learning are the spores and libraries are central institution to democracy.

As the silence opened up the space, the librarian who led the project welcomed and thanked everyone for coming and introduced me as their Mayor. I got such a warm round of applause – it was very heartening. Then I sat on the stage, microphone in hand and gave them a big smile and started with Ninna Marni (how are you in Kaurna) and all the children replied back Marni Aii (we’re good). I thought I was going to burst with pride and joy  – a generation ago this would not have happened. In fact on that very site, the day I was there when we broke ground for the Seaford Ecumenical Mission to be built which is across the road from the library, we raised an Australian flag and I felt sick from what seemed like yet another act of colonialism on the unceded Kaurna Yerta. But here I was siting down and hearing these words back at me and I swelled with hope and courage to keep going on this path, these young ones taking leadership and showing so simply that they already know this, they are growing up with this knowledge.

After this simple greeting I told them what my favourite book was when I was a young reader (FYI – the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and how books are places to go when we want to laugh, learn something, have our imaginations fed and to be opened up to new and different ideas and have our minds blown in imaginative worlds. I told them how next year their job is to recruit one more person each to the challenge so my arm will ache from having to sign so many certificates. I told them to give themselves a pat of the back for their good work and a big hug to remind them that they love learning through reading.  This is how we grow mycelium for hope, building on what works, what is fertile and what we already have in our midst.

The libraries of Onkaparinga announced on Friday my next adventure with them which is me going to do reading a story at each of the libraries with the toddler groups throughout the year. When I was campaigning to get elected this was an idea I came up with inspired to some extent by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. When he was a leader in the anti-apartheid movement he set about only talking to young people under 30 for some years as he felt the future was with them and so that change was always going to come from their efforts. I have taken that lesson and am starting small with the reading challenge and now story-time. I will be looking for more ways to connect with the young one as they step into their everyday leadership.

Out in the bush and forests of local government and across my Council I will be foraging for fruits that can be harvested to help us with our discernment and decision-making. I will be fostering the growth of mycelium down pathways of curiosity, equity and justice, and reminding myself that out of the decay and humus grows goodness.

My mum was a junior primary teacher and had a mantra: “The more you read, the more you grow, the more you grow the more you read, so read, read read.”  In this day and age with so much fake news, algorithms that grow destructive pathways and people find it hard to navigate what is real and what is fantasy, libraries as a source of truth are going to become even more important. They can be trusted spaces and places to help secure democracy. Get along to a library soon, send your love to a librarian you know they are the information guardians and technicians of our past, present and future. Share stories and be a storyteller, build mycelium for good.

P#2 Promises to Tomorrow: Listening to the young

When Archbishop Tutu wanted to accelerate the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, there was a point, when he decided to spend his time only talking and listening to young people, people under 30. He felt that they were the ones who would be inheriting a post apartheid South Africa and so needed to understand what they could do together to create that future. This week in Chicago President Obama gave clear confidence and instruction to young people:

This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

It is imperative we listen to children and young people, to understand why they are making the choices they are making. In volunteering they are putting their energy into environmental pursuits, leaving the services like Meals on Wheels to the retired; in the way they spend their time, they are giving some to themselves and more to being together with peers than any other generation sharing and connecting in such constant ways through social media and in real time; with their finances they are building new collaborative economies where access is more important than ownership. As the first generation of digital natives they are wired differently and have different priorities. Debt and cost of living, means they are more likely to save for an experience than a house. They are better informed about health and well-being and are spending more time and money investing in their bodies than previous generations. These trends exist world-wide and although there are definitely inequities and gaps in countries and between countries – these are still the general trends of a generation. Those born in the 1990s are coming of age now and leaving their youth and as they start to enter their 30s will be having their own children.

Children being born today are asking questions that were hidden in previous generations. An 11 year old I know who is the grandson of a dear friend of mine asked his mother a question this week:

If a person doesn’t identify as either male or female, when they or their partner has a baby, how do they decide if they are a mother or a father – can anyone have an opinion for example could one child call them mum but the other child call them dad, based on how they view that parent?

This is a question that might not have been asked in any generation before his.

My promise to the future is I will be curious and look for ways to listen in to younger people and children. I will pay attention to what they are saying on line, their art, the books they are reading, movies they are watching, games they are playing, questions they are asking. This means I need to be in places where I can hear, see and be exposed to their voices and find ways to bring them to my attention.

The young voice, the young mind, inspires and encourages. And for those who are in despair, grieving, abused or confused, we need to hear that too and animate, embolden and support them to take the steps they need to take to turn that around; or get out of the way so they can do it themselves, or move a barrier on their behalf. When you don’t have children in your life, you are not exposed to their wonder and awe at the world, and seeing the world through a child’s eyes does let you see the twinkle in the star.

Building optimism is essential to building a resilient generation, with depression in epidemic proportions amongst teens and young adults, I wonder if there is a correlation between that phenomena and not being heard? Paying attention to the early warning signs, that may not be voiced; asking simple questions like are you OK?; offering up a support when you detect one might be needed even if it is rejected is a sign you are sending that you are listening, noticing.

As a person in the older generation I promise to be a builder of hope. I will hold an expectation of potential and have a desire to listen to their questions with confidence those questions are planting seeds of tomorrow.

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Yes we can – Clare and Archie Jan 2017

Sanctuary of the Labyrinth

I’ve walked the labyrinth: in San Francisco in Grace Cathedral, in Toronto next to Trinity church that supports the city homeless, behind St George‘s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town, in Alice Springs at Campfire in the Heart and in McLaren Vale along the shiraz walking trail of the old railway line.

Each time I’ve walked the labyrinth I have been visited by new thoughts, I’ve been comforted and had some revelation. The very act of walking in and out, tracing and retracing my own steps, strengthens my narrative.

I’ve walked the labyrinth many ways: on my own, with the love of my life and with a group. I’ve walked with a specific intention, meditation or song. I’ve found that the deeper the intention for the walk, the deeper the experience.

I recently learnt of a virus of the inner ear that causes an illness called labyrinthitis – it is not very pleasant causing dizziness and disorientation. I have been reflecting on this affliction and noticing when it flares up. It seems to take hold when there is a need for re-calibration and balance. The condition making sure that its host knows that recalibration and rebalance is required! Walking the labyrinth is similar in a way. Perhaps if you need to recalibrate and find your balance this walking meditation you might be saved from physical symptoms.

Hildegard I know you spent a lot of time in your life not well and I wonder if this ever had to do with your needing to re-charge, straighten up after being dizzy or unsettled by one phenomena or another?

The labyrinth is not a maze, it is one single path that leads to the centre and the same one leading you out. Going in deep and faithfully taking one step at a time is surely the only way into the centre, and once there to find your way out requires a good deal of fidelity and courage. Being true to your path is the universal quest. The ritual walking of the labyrinth reflects the common path of human experience. We all enter the path, and we all exit the path.

And in the places I have walked a physical labyrinth I add my steps to those who have gone before and have left my footprints for those who follow.

Grace Cathedral nurtured the first wave of AIDS in San Francisco and held so many of the gay community to its bosom. The quilts, the prayers, the poems and the sanctuary it was and continues to be is an ongoing testament to the fidelity of San Francisco to its gay community.

Toronto’s Trinity Church has a strong and fine history of being a place for the homeless to feel safe, find a meal and receive friendship, a sanctuary, especially in the winter time.

Cape Town Cathedral hosted so many moments of civil disobedience, solidarity and prophetic witness by black and white throughout the apartheid years. It welcomed everyone and in doing so putting all of the congregation at risk – it was a sanctuary on more than one occasion for those fleeing arrest, bullets and persecution. It grew its own prophets led by Desmond Tutu.

Campfire in the Heart is a sanctuary on the edge of a township riddled with racism and flooded with ancient stories holding the fragile land and communities together. It stands as witness, and is invitation to all, with warmth, wise counsel and deep compassion in the pores of those who are there and in each grain of the red sand on which it lies.

The old train track at McLaren Vale is surrounded by houses on one side and vineyards on the other, nestled in the valley behind the main part of the township the labyrinth is a quiet, still place where the wattle birds, magpies, honeyeaters, galahs and parrots sing to all those who walk the path there. The old red gums hold the stories of the land and provide the sanctuary to support the pilgrim.

I keep going, on my labyrinth way, and as I head into the half way mark, between fifty and sixty, I accept that I have now turned from the centre and am  heading out. Gathering up the lessons I have learnt on the way in, savouring the moments, reflecting on where I have trod, noticing with new eyes what I didn’t see on the way in and gratefully stepping forward.

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