Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Double Thank-you

I found a good book in the second hand shop that was published in 1959. It's by a man called David Dunn about his hobby of "giving himself away", so I suppose you could say he was one of the pioneers of the Random Acts of Kindness movement. One of his chapters is actually not about giving but receiving. In fact, receiving graciously from others may be one of the finest forms of giving that many haven't properly mastered. I've noticed in my own life that some people are more "fun" to give to than others. There was a quote by Leigh Hunt who said, "To receive a present handsomely and in the right spirit, even when you have none to return, is to give one in return."

David Dunn mentioned his great idea of the "double thank-you" or "second thanks." The first thanks occurs when a person receives a gift and they thank the giver as an automatic etiquette response. Well, everyone does that. Aren't we all instructed to "Say Thank-you" from the time we're old enough to string two words together? This doesn't necessarily mean that the recipient even liked the present. It takes more of a skillful sort of receiver to give the Second Thanks, which is simply mentioning to the person down the track, how handy, beautiful or interesting you are still finding his gift.

David Dunn had this story to say. "Recently I had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of a second thanks. Four years ago I gave one of my nephews a metallurgical handbook as a birthday present, for which he thanked me appropriately at the time. Recently I received a letter from him saying that he'd changed his job, and that in his new work he had occasion to refer almost daily to the handbook I'd given him. He wanted me to know how useful my gift was proving. This note made so favourable an impression on me that I now have my eye peeled for other books to send this appreciative young man."

It makes such a lot of sense but people so often don't do it! Have you ever found yourself thinking, "I wonder if So-&-So liked the whatchamacallit I gave him?" This whole concept made an impression on me and I decided to make an effort to give the second thanks as often as I can. It's easy to give the first thanks but takes a bit of polish and finesse to give the second thanks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Brief Sea Change

When my husband turned 40 back in June, his parents, brother and sisters all put in to give us a couple of nights away at a Bed & Breakfast while they looked after the kids. We were free to take it at any time so we decided to wait until the pleasant weather of early spring. And as Andrew was the birthday boy, he got to choose the location. He decided he'd like to go to a beach-side Bed & Breakfast, so last week-end we dropped the 3 kids off with his parents and set off to Port Elliot, on our South Aussie coast by the Southern Ocean.

It was the first time we've been away by ourselves without at least one of the kids since February 1994, which was a year before Logan, our 13yo was born. We did get to go on a lovely flight and stay in Hobart for 2 nights in 2004 while my sister looked after Logan and Emma, but as Blake was still only 7 months old, he came with us, of course.
We did lots of good, rugged coastal walks along cliffs. I was thinking about the kids and took these photos of danger signs, thinking they'd be amused. Some of the pictures are so descriptive, you really don't need to be literate to get the benefit of them. Maybe it's true that a picture speaks a thousand words.

Why write, "KEEP AWAY FROM THE EDGE OF THE CLIFFS" for example, when this sign does the job so much more effectively?

And then there's this one!
I hate to say I missed a wonderful photo opportunity when we were hiking up the Bluff in Victor Harbor. It was very steep, and I thought, "We already have plenty of good coastal photos so I'll leave the camera in the car." But on the way back down we came across a very bold echidna out in the open. He was quite content to keep grubbing about while we walked within about half a foot of him! Andrew even ventured to reach out and touch his needles, and he curled up quickly into a little ball. Still makes me want to kick myself when I think of how I missed showing the kids and putting a photo of him on this blog.
All I can say is that if I ever come across another nonchalent wild echidna I'll definitely take his photo, but as it's the first time it's ever happened to me, I don't fancy my chances. Oh well, we live and learn.

I got a few other nature photos; mostly sea birds like this shag.

This fellow is a Pacific Gull. He very kindly posed for me.

These are just common coastal seagulls, the type who screech and flock around anyone who they see has any food. In my teens I used to live near one of the beaches of Adelaide and there were always plenty. We don't get any at all up in the Adelaide Hills, so whenever I'm by the coast and see some, it brings back memories of my past. I wondered if they're anything like the American seagulls I read about.

We saw this pet rock. Nothing like getting the shot of the echidna of course, but I still thought it was quite cute. How could anyone resist a request like this. So I obliged....

....and this is what we saw.

Now that we're back, we settled back into normal routine pretty well straight away. It probably takes more than three days and two nights for a proper sea change, but it was a wonderful break from routine just the same. (I wonder if they'll do the same thing when I turn 40).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My lesson on perspective

This one's going back five years but I never forgot it.

When Logan was still at school, there were plenty of other class mothers who were the professional type. They were alway on the run, wearing fancy tailored suits or official looking uniforms. I often felt a bit in awe of them and part of me wished that I had some sort of career identity too. And I often imagined that they must be sort of scornful of me and the other SAHMs. There was nothing I'd rather do than be at home looking after my house and family, yet I still felt intimidated by the way I imagined the 'professional' mums must be looking at me.

One of Logan's friend's mothers was a dental technician who worked in the clinic which services all of the school children in our district. Whenever any us took our kids in, we were bound to see her there in her crisp white uniform, either using the drills or giving advice about teeth cleaning. She was one of the ones I just a little in awe of and envious of.

Anyway, in 2003, just when I'd decided to begin homeschooling, Logan had been invited around to play with her son for the first and only time. When I went to drop him off, I had a chat with his friend's mother. We both mentioned the shortcomings we perceived in the school system and I told her of the decision we'd made to homeschool Logan, let Emma finish her year at kindy which she enjoyed and homeschool her too. And what she said to me nearly bowled me over.

It went something like this. "I wish with all my heart that I had the nerve to do something like that, and I really admire you but I'd never take the plunge. I know that you write books so you could manage homeschooling in a snap but I don't feel that clever and confident. All I can do is mix a filling. Big deal. All I can do is watch and admire people like you, because I see several homeschooled kids in the clinic and I take my hat off to their parents."

Well, needless to say I drove off with my head in a whirl. And all this time later I think that's probably been one of the significant conversations of my life. Whenever it occurs to me that people must look down on me for being 'just' a stay-at-home-mum, I remember, "No, that's not necessarily true." And whenver I sum a person up as having absolutely everything going for them and plenty of confidence, I remember, "That's not necessarily true, either." You just never know, do you?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Protection Psalm

I've had rather a sad week. Firstly, an old friend of ours died suddenly of a heart-attack, aged 49. His son used to be one of Logan's best friends when Logan was still at school and his wife was my walking partner and a very good friend. I've been to visit them and the funeral is tomorrow morning. Apart from being so upset for them, I've been feeling melancholy as I've remembered old times. Also, I heard that a friend's friend, aged 39, rolled her car and was killed just one kilometre from her home while her one year son in the back seat had only minor head injuries. And just last night as I was driving to my Bible Study group, one of the roads near our home had been cordoned off by the police. When I arrived I found out that somebody had only just been killed there. As I heard somebody say, also life is a very strong force, at times like this we see it is also extremely frail.

Incidents such as these seem to indicate that there is not much we can do to control our own destinies but I think there is one vital thing; the most important thing of all. We can trust the Person who does know what is going to become of us and holds our future in His hands.

I read an interesting story about Psalm 91 which has some bearing on all of this. It's always been one of my favourite Psalms and I learned that it is actually known as "The Soldier's Psalm." In World War One, the soldiers of the 91st Battalion decided to recite the 91st Psalm daily, because they were the 91st Battalion. This Battalion engaged in three of the War's bloodiest battles, yet although other units suffered up to 90% casualties, the 91st Battalion did not suffer a single combat related death. It would seem that when we are faithful enough to take God at His Word, He quickly shows us that He able and willing to keep His promises.

The writer said that we ought to plead God's shield daily in these uncertain times. We can confidently claim His rest, protection, safety, confidence and complete freedom from fear. I'm going to make a habit of praying it out loud as a covering for my family, not to twist God's arm as nobody can ever do, but to know that I am doing all I can do and all that He asks of me.

I'll just write down this version of it from the New Living Translation.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him.
For He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armour and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.
If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet.
The Lord says, "I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my Name. When they call on me I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On "Being the Change you want to see"

While searching internet sites, I came across this inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abbey in 1100 AD. I thought it was very interesting in the light of what Mahatma Gandhi said several centuries later! How times never change! Here it is.

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it too seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but also they would have none of it.

And now as I lie on my deathbed I suddenly realise: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to change my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.