FOUR STORIES FROM A SMALL COMMUNITY WITH A LOT OF HEART – STEWART ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
A COMMUNITY OF ROUND 400 WHO HAVE RAISED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OVER THE YEARS FOR WORLDWIDE VICTIMS
OF EARTHQUAKES AND WARS, TORNADOES AND TSUNAMIS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE …
She was too small to walk more than a few wobbly steps,
too young to have more than a word or two of vocabulary.
Her outings were in a pushchair
and she was bright-eyed and happy on the long walks to and from the village,
content to watch passersby when her mother got involved in conversations,
smiling and responsive when people talked to her.
But then there was a visit to urban. grandparents –
a shopping trip round city streets.
In half the time of a home outing, the mother had a fractious toddler,
restless and bored in her pushchair in spite of the kaleidoscope of activity around.
Even though she was too young to understand:—
she was a child who belonged in a caring community
and she felt the difference
in a city where no-one knew her by name.
It looked like a contented family of four –
Mum and Dad, a son and a daughter,
Mum went off with another man
and the big, rough, tough boat-builder was left
with his two young children.
HOW he tried!
He learned to use a sewing machine, he mended clothes
he cooked and baked and ironed the laundry;
he played his part as a school parent.
The community whole-heartedly endorsed his efforts to keep his children –
who wanted to stay with him in their home place.
But the court awarded their care to their mother.
Even in their desolation, the children knew they were loved and special to their community
when that whole community turned out to farewell them
and weep with them and their father.
He was an old widower, growing more frail;
he’d recently had a trip to hospital with deep vein thrombosis.
He was a social man
and every day he would drive to the village
to purchase his groceries, pick up his mail
and chat with those he met.
Every day he collected his neighbours’ newspaper
and plodded the ten minute walk to their home
to deliver it –
neighbours who were active, younger and fitter than he.
And some people wondered why they let an old man
make that daily effort.
But the neighbours knew he needed to walk each day,
that he needed to feel useful to others,
that there needed to be a regular routine
so that any break in that routine would trigger investigation.
He might have lived alone
but he was still special in his caring community..
She was just one child among the seventy or so at the local school,
not outstanding in any particular way,
she was a critically ill little girl, with peritonitis,
urgently flown to the nearest hospital.
The medical staff saw an ordinary 8 year old
until a personal mailbag arrived, bulging with letters and cards,
and florist vans delivered flowers.
Even though she was still scarcely able to speak, she noticed.
A finger pointed to a posy basket, adorned with a child-pleaser,
a tiny smile,
and a cracked little voice said, “Look, Daddy! A bee!”
She might have looked like a very ordinary child
but she was as special and as loved
as every child in her caring community.