‘I am, you are, we are’

February 2, 2015 at 7:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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“It is our species’ reliance on communities that explains why we’ve evolved to be so good at cooperating with each other. We are also, for quite different evolutionary reasons, self-interested and competitive. That may well be our deepest quandary: we are individuals with an independent sense of personal identity and we are members of groups, with a strong sense of social identity fed by our desire to connect and to belong.” – Hugh Mackay, ‘The Art of Belonging: It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’

Everyone (I’m generalising I know but those who get a day off work definitely do) loves a public holiday, so I’m guessing there were quite a few smiling faces here in Australia last week. Plenty of families and friends gathered for BBQ’s and picnics, community events were happening all over the country, and some used the significance of the date to attend citizenship ceremonies to officially welcome others or be welcomed themselves to this ‘Great Southern Land’. And so it is with a deep respect and appreciation of the depth, breadth and significance of the Indigenous history of this land we now call Australia, and all the people, journeys and contributions that make this multicultural nation feel like home for me, that I share this post about belonging reflecting after Australia Day 2015.

“That’s why the answer to the eternal question Who am I? must be weighed against the answer to an even deeper question: Who are we? … we are writing each other’s stories, as much as we are writing our own.” – Hugh Mackay, ‘The Art of Belonging: It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’

Hugh Mackay’s book, ‘The Art of Belonging: It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’, provides a fictional town setting that mirrors the fullness of life and associated complexities that we face in our own real life communities. I have used some of the quotes from the book today as a reflection on this theme of connection and belonging. The quote above really resonated when considering the mixture of emotions that individuals and groups may have been feeling last week on Australia Day, or as we navigate our unfolding journeys of potential on any given day of the year. In order for us to strongly identify with and be grateful for the belonging that exists in our lives, helping us to grow, develop and contribute, we need to be open to, aware of and engage with the experience of deepening connection to self, others and the world around us.

“None of us are born a blank slate; we have too much genetic inheritance to claim such a thing. But the story that gradually unfolds on that slate is mostly written by others, not by us. We are the authors of each other’s stories through the influence we have on each other, and the way we respond to each other. Each of our stories is unique, but the subtext is universal – it is about finding the answer to just one question: Where do I belong?” – Hugh Mackay, ‘The Art of Belonging: It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’

So as I rode into the Continental Pools on Australia Day morning, saying hello to a woman I went to University with as she ran past while I rode, chatted to my good friend who I swim with when I arrived and also the group of swimmers who are at the pool just before opening time every day, walked to the coffee shop we go to after a swim past all the volunteers setting up the aquathon that would be taking place that day, being asked how we were and if we wanted the regular by the waitress at the coffee shop and finally watching the early stages of the first aquathon races from our vantage point, I was reminded of the interdependent, diverse and interesting fabric of our communities.

“But ‘home’ is a far richer and more complex concept than the house or street you live in. In the end, it’s more about the people than the place; more about belonging than acquiring; more about engaging than cocooning.” – Hugh Mackay, ‘The Art of Belonging: It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’

I’ve been fortunate throughout my life to call multiple locations, in different parts of the world, for various lengths of time, ‘home’. Each place provided me with a multitude of opportunities, with the biggest opportunity in each location being that I had the chance to engage with, be inspired by and learn from the people who shared that particular time and space. The way that I felt ‘welcomed’ in each space was a testament to the thoughts, words and actions of the individuals and groups that I encountered. This connect first mentality is something that I strive to embody each and every day and foster within our Explore Discover Act programs. So I share the verse below as my wish for this Australia Day, for all of us as Australians, then letting it ripple out into our amazing global village.

“We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian!”

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