In his book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse Charlie Mackesy (2019) urges us to ‘…live courageously with more kindness for yourself and for others’. At the time of writing his book, Mackesy could not have imagined the complexities associated with this year dominated by Covid-19. For Melbournians, 2020 has been particularly challenging, as we have had to adapt rapidly to new ways of living. For months and months we have all experienced significant limitations to our lives and we have had to accommodate so much loss and grief. Inconveniences associated with everyday basics like limited shopping and reduced access to haircuts have been insignificant compared to experiencing isolation from those we love.
Restrictions on travel within our splendid city, within Australia and beyond have caused us to focus on what is ‘local’ – our immediate neighbourhoods and those individuals and families who live nearby. We are reminded:
‘Remember always to welcome a stranger, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it’ (Hebrews 13.2)
Kindness of friends and the unexpected actions of strangers have sustained and supported us during these past months. Indeed many of us have discovered ‘angels’ living in our midst. Yes we have all played our part. Our own bountiful hedge of French lavender in our garden has come almost miraculously to the rescue. In the midst of the doom and gloom associated with Covid-19, our lavender has flourished. We have picked thousands of pieces during this year and we have benefited from the beautiful scent and the comforting, early morning experience associated with collecting the tiny exquisite blooms.
We have been very pleased to share Mother Nature’s bountiful lavender with others. However, our lavender posies have been insignificant when compared to the kindness and generosity shown to us by both friends and strangers during 2020. We have been greatly enriched by the actions of friends and parishioners so generously keeping in contact, sharing advice on websites for spiritual inspiration, loaning us books, and giving us superbly made face-masks and wonderfully juicy, home-grown lemons.
Our neighbours have been happy to chit chat across our fences, offer gardening tips and loan tools. The kindness of strangers has shone brightly too. On numerous occasions we have returned from our daily walks with home-grown limes, herbs and bunches of flowers readily shared by strangers at their front gates.
We have been so impressed by the generosity of local residents and business owners who have offered food supplies and cooked meals for those in our community who are in need. Running a nearby business, a young couple has nurtured the locals (especially the seniors) not only with great coffee but by making a wonderful effort to know all their customers by name.
With Advent upon us, we are offered an opportunity to reflect on the year we have experienced. Despite the grief and loss we have all encountered during 2020, local friendships have been enriched and new friendships have developed. Even with the enormous challenges associated with Covid-19, unexpected kindness and generosity have truly enhanced our lives. We can face the future feeling more hopeful because we have all played a part in enriching our community through simple, basic acts of kindness. With the opportunity of regular church attendance not being available we have all sought alternative ways of connecting with others and ‘doing church differently’. With the support of Zoom and the kindness of others we have joined groups or independently enriched our own spiritual lives. For many of us this opportunity has been redemptive.
Madeleine, our five year old grandchild, has told us that she has learned about ‘the spirit of Jesus’ during this year and the importance of being kind to her class-mates. Our Maddie is on the right track! To quote the horse in Charlie Mackesy’s superb book:
‘Nothing beats kindness.….It sits quietly beyond all things’.
Wishing all parishioners a peaceful and reflective Advent,
By Barbara Emerson and David Kitchen
Parishioners of Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parish