I take great delight in singing you a song by Paul Kelly because I love the story behind it. I hold you and we dance around the lounge room while you smile with recognition as it plays on my iPod. In the 1960’s an indigenous Australian man called Vincent Lingiari worked on a cattle station in the Northern Territory. He led a walk-off over poor work and living conditions. This protest then led to seeking the return of traditional lands and with others, Vincent petitioned the Governor General. It became a federal issue and finally in 1975, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured a handful of sand into Vincent’s hand in poignant symbolism of the returning of land to the Gurindji People.
I love Vincent’s strength. I love that he showed personal integrity. I love that he was determined to have a voice. Often in life you will observe situations where others do not act with consideration. They forget their very humanness and create suffering, pain and stress for others. I urge you to treat others with compassion. To always act from a place of integrity. Most of all, I urge you to speak out against behaviour that causes harm to others. Don’t be afraid to highlight something that goes against the grain in you. I want the world you grow up in to reflect our best human qualities and not the worst, in which case you will need to be those qualities yourself.
Night after night we can sit in our lounge rooms watching the news and complaining about the state of the world, and then go straight back out into that world the next day having done nothing to change it. If you want the world to be more compassionate, YOU must be compassionate. If you want the world to be less judgemental, YOU must be less judgemental. If you want people to highlight injustices, use YOUR voice. There is no point in seeing something that you know can be done differently and doing nothing about it. It begins and ends with you.
The other aspect of the Vincent Lingiari story that I love, is his patience. He had incredible resolve to stick to his guns because he believed in what he was asking for. He wanted to create a better experience of life not only for himself but for others as well.
He stood in front of a seemingly insurmountable monolith of red tape and racism. Yet he stayed true to his heart’s desire to see change. He saw his dream through to its fruition even though it took many years. He may have had dark moments but he never gave up hope and that takes courage.
Seamus, when you believe in something with all your heart, do not lose focus. When others are discouraging you, do not listen. When you want to cry with the frustration that things are not happening in the way you want them to happen, keep the faith. When you think the situation is bigger and better than you, do not give up. If your heart is telling you its truth you must listen and you must trust it.
Where I see greed I aim to be more generous. When I hear narrow minded judgements I open my mind to acceptance. When I see self-hatred in others my resolve is to love myself even more. It’s not always an easy task but I endeavour to practise it until it becomes a natural response.
I look to examples of behaviour that I can admire in my everyday life. When I look at the people I have surrounded myself with I see kindness, generosity, love and forgiveness. I see those with a genuine desire not to enforce a change, but to be the change itself.
Then I look to the likes of Vincent Lingiari. There wasn’t a path so he made his own. He wasn’t just brave, he was the very demonstration of fearlessness. Be fearless Seamus, be fearless.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Gandhi