Yesterday I found myself at Arrivals A at Sydney Airport at 6.00am wriggling with excitement, waiting for my daughter to arrive home. She’d been away for almost a month with her Grandma touring around the U.S. It was all business class, 6-star, private tours, chauffeurs and once in a lifetime opportunities for her. A very precious and extravagant gift for a 13 year old. I worry a lot about whether she truly understands how lucky she is and how her life and the opportunities that are regularly presented aren’t available to the majority of children her age, well children in general really. That, just by the randomness of life, she was born into a life of privilege rather than despair. I think she gets it, but my husband and I do much to reinforce how giving back is more important than receiving.
I was musing on just that when it was announced that her flight was delayed so I sat down and began to watch the passing parade, which always reminds me of the wonderful ending of the film Love Actually. So much love. It is always the answer.
I then started chatting to a man next to me. He had a gentle face, lined but not weathered. I think he’d have been around mid-60s. His face transformed when he smiled, which he did regularly. He was wearing a tan-coloured suit (think Hawaii Five O) and had an ancient (but seriously beautiful) watch which he kept glancing at. Beside him was a supermarket trolley, loaded to the gunnels with individual plastic bags containing chocolate, chips, water, fruit and a book or magazine of some kind in each. “Who are you waiting for?” I asked, after he’d asked the same of me. “Refugees” he said. He went on to tell me that he was expecting 48 refugees off two planes during the course of the morning. Many were coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with some from Burma. “Our job is to try and make their initial hours and days (and then subsequent months and years) in Australia as inclusive and welcoming as we can. Many will stay here in Sydney but some will travel on to Melbourne, Hobart, Wollongong and Adelaide.” He glanced again at his watch. “I think it will be a long day. Both flights have been delayed.”
I don’t believe I’ve ever felt so warmly toward, or inspired by, a complete stranger. I think his name was Sheikh, but I’m not sure. Anyway, he went on to tell me that he worked (maybe he volunteered) three days a week for Settlement Services International ~ an organisation I’d never heard of. The irony of my daughter’s extravagant trip and the journey the refugees have experienced and are yet to encounter was not lost on me.
We chatted about recent developments concerning Manus Island, Nauru, Christmas Island and the Australian government’s detention policy in general. Both of us agreed that it was a hugely complex issue but that the current path was far from being the right one. Then we turned again to love. He fairly exploded with pride as he shared photos of his daughter who has recently graduated as a nurse and multiple photos of adorable grandchildren, looking cheekily into the camera. He is blessed, he told me, with eight children and when he’s not working, he spends as much time as he can with his family. There were photos of a family celebration in which the table was covered with a fine display of Afghani food. I could only find two photos of my babes, but truth be told I was more interested in learning about him… It was clear to me (and I hope him) that whilst our lives are different, they are so very similar, being as they are, bound by a love of life, fairness and family. He made me want to cry with happiness. I’m not sure why.
Not long after, my daughter bounced through the gates and I scooped her up and smothered her in kisses. She was mortified but I couldn’t have cared less. I shook Sheikh’s hand as warmly as I could and then we parted. I will never, ever forget him.
If you can, please consider donating to the work of Settlement Services International. I certainly will be.
And here again is the Love Actually ending. Promise me that you’ll take a few minutes to watch it and then go hug someone, twice.
Until next time…
This is in no way a sponsored post…