quiet bravery

While I concocted some lunch food (fig and goats cheese, and gnocchi and roasted vegie salads; burghul with currents, lemon and pistachios) Maria and her friends sat on the deck and talked until the afternoon became the evening. This is an amazing bunch of women.

The stories they tell, one after another, would not even be construed by commercial TV current affairs producers. We laugh embarrassed laughs at the near comical scenarios, I wouldn’t believe them possible if I’d heard them second-hand. The people they work with are amongst the most broken in the community and they regularly fall (or jump) through the cracks in the system inadequately designed to support them.

We sit there on our ponsy deck eating bobo food. Polite society carries on while people improvise on the margins. This group of friends have their own incredible journeys … and yet they find the strength to give of themselves everyday with no recognition.

I’ve worked briefly with Simon McKeon. He is an extraordinary person who deserves being named Australian of the Year for 2011. But with no disrespect for Simon, women like these are equally deserving. They work with some of the most difficult people. The conditions they work under would not be tolerated by large numbers of us. They are creative, even eccentric in the way they turn up every day and seek to make life better for others. What they do demands skill, grace and perseverance … everyday. And it is mostly invisible.

They are a testament to the beauty of humanity.

It makes me think about the way the tertiary educated community serves others. We think our way to service. We have theories, frameworks and ideologies that fortify us. And I smile when I hear these women talk about how useless many formally trained social workers are.

Perhaps it is in part because we are uncomfortable, in formal work and educational environments, talking about the one thing that makes the biggest difference. The thing that we all acknowledge is the most important thing in life, yet the thing that we talk about least in our professions. Love.