I began the day at 5am with the sound of my alarm. It was my birthday. I woke a little earlier than my usual 6am start to finish writing a blog post before I enjoyed the day’s festivities. I felt burdened to write about a girl I saw in India, and about the welfare of girls all around the world.
My day evolved into a fabulous birthday. Utterly fabulous! It was the beginning of a wonderful – unplanned and rather extraordinary — birthday week. And yet, how can I write about hard topics like child slavery in the morning and then indulge with a pedicure, new dress and cake on my birthday? It seems like a double standard in a way.
But you see I have grappled with this question before. I’ve seen the reality of hardship for women and children around the world — in India and Laos; in Lesotho and Papua New Guinea — and then when I come home to Australia, entering back into my privileged (oh-so-privileged) life, I feel a desperate, helpless low.
“You don’t need to save the world every day Kelly,” is what my husband said to a forlorn me when I returned from a Save the Children 300 meter cycle in Laos.
Perhaps a heaviness is obvious when thrust back into this life when I’m eating cake while children elsewhere are malnourned. How can one reconcile this in their mind? Should I live a life of penance for my privilege? Perhaps I should live less to somehow make up for the injustice of it all? Before I answer my own question, I need to tell about my brilliant birthday week.
After dropping the children to school, I caught up with a friend; It doesn’t matter how long since we’ve seen each other, we simply pick up where we left off. Then I went shopping for a birthday present (for myself) from my husband: a new dress. A pedicure was next in order. With pink toes in my shoes, I grabbed a smoothie before heading to a park where the purple jacaranda trees bloomed and the grass was green. I removed my shoes and walked across the grass, experiencing the softness under my feet, feeling so grateful to be alive. I felt so happy in the moment. Happy because of happy moments to come. Happy because of the air, the sun, and the sky, and the grass and all the wonder experienced in these simple things. Oh it was good!
I sat under a jacaranda tree, with the odd flower tumbling in a swirl around me, and I prayed as I breathed. It was such a happy, happy moment. I could feel myself smiling. Smiling from the inside. Later, I went home and celebrated with my kids with my favourite strawberry sponge cake from Shingle Inn. To top off a great day, another awesome friend brought over my favourite dinner – beef vermicelli – and we watched a movie together. My husband worked late into the night so that was the only damper on the day but I’m used to his working hours.
Lunch with George Calombaris
The next morning I headed to Sydney to a Morning Fresh function where George Calombaris would cook lunch for the intimate group. Amazing food! I had the opportunity to chat to George after the lunch and I’ll post more about that interview soon.
That afternoon I decided on a whim to see a movie, on my own. All on my own. It felt like an adventure, and I liked that! I made my way to the theatre in a taxi, and chatted to the driver about India. India…yes. Interesting, I started this post with India, didn’t I? My flight back to Brisbane wasn’t until the next day.
Sydney Photo Walk
Morning came and I walked around Sydney, enjoying the sights and sounds of a new place. I have been to Sydney before, but never to this particular part, and it made me see Sydney in a different light. It was a glorious day.
In the afternoon, I flew home to a weekend with my family; couldn’t wait to see my kids!
So as I said: a brilliant birthday week full of treats, and good things, experiences, fun times and great people. I didn’t feel guilty. There was no cloud there. And yet, the question remains. The question of privilege…while others suffer.
I look back at the time when both my husband and I were both students and we had 3 small children. We had very little. Ha! I say often say, “I don’t know how we quite did it!” But even then, we lived a privileged life. We had choice, and freedom, and food, and shelter (even though there was no hot water in the kitchen). Yes, we were, and are, very blessed, and I trust I will never forget that, or take it for granted.
In many instances, parenting has been instrumental in helping me to understand, and this question of privilege made me think of my own children. You see, I want to give good things to my children and see them enjoy them. I want to gift them a childhood full of memories, grounded in unconditional love, faith and trust with solid yet gracious boundaries. To give them opportunity. Fun things! Good times! A cupcake treat! Christmas full of family and abundance!
As a parent, it’s special to give good things to my children and see their faces light up in enjoyment. I wouldn’t want them to reject the things I provide in a guilt haze. And importantly, neither would I like them to take it for granted (and yes, they do sometimes). What I long to model for my children is that they embrace and enjoy all the good-good things without falling into the trap of short-term satisfaction seeking. And to be grateful — gracefully grateful. Then to be aware, and learn to make choices of conscience. There’s something else: it’s giving. Living a life of joy and giving. Giving by being aware. Giving by seeing. Giving by doing.
So I’ll enjoy the good gifts blessed to me in this life with freedom and joy. And I will be grateful, ever-so-grateful and never forget it. I’ll keep learning and looking. And I’ll give (and give) where, and how, and to whom I can as I live this life I live.