Need is all around us, you don’t have to look far to find it. The more you look, the more you find. Without some sort of internal regulation we can become swamped and even paralysed with the enormity and scope of need that surrounds us on a daily basis. My mind can race away from my own happiness at horrifying speeds. By the time I reel it back in and catch up to it, I find myself in despair and darkness, overwhelmed by the enormity of the crises around me.
We live in an imperfect world and there are many varied and complex issues which dog our progress. It would take a battalion of Mandelas, Ghandis, Theresas and Kings to make a meaningful dent in even one of them; yet there is something we can all do which would change the world. It is the human equivalent of switching off a single light bulb to reduce global warming. We can reach out to another human being and hold their hand, for a minute, an hour, a day or for the rest of their life. I believe that this is what we all crave more than political solutions.
I was lucky enough to be a traveler for about 10 years of my life and I was also an immigrant in the country I grew up in. I have felt the alienation of living in a foreign land and I’ve also been on the receiving end of some of the most heart-warming hospitality from the hands of those our own media are constantly vilifying. I met a guy at a traffic light in Morocco once and he invited me back to stay with his family for as long as I wanted! I stayed three nights and was welcomed into that house like a long lost brother. I slept in the parent’s room, I ate their food and washed in their bathroom. It was that welcoming act that makes me feel so warmly towards that country (even after being nearly stabbed in a restaurant and having to hide out under a jalaba in a bus station for two hours until I could smuggle myself out to safety).
My story is a human one, it’s not political or racial or cultural: it’s human. If we are to find a way through with our morality and conscience intact then we have to see the common humanity in everyone regardless of what the exterior looks like. Like the bloke I met at the traffic lights in Morocco I wanted to be the person who helps just that one person as opposed to fixing a whole system. Not just because it’s too damn hard but because it would make a difference to that person without overwhelming me. Knowing our limitations is important so we can find a place to start.
A few months ago I started something called the First Hike Project. It’s a pretty simple deal. We take young refugee boys on an overnight hike in the Australian bush. We give them a taste of our country, the smells, the sounds and the rhythm of the bush. We watch them spot kangaroos for the first time and then when the sun goes down we roast marshmallows over an open fire. There have been kids who can’t speak a word of English and we enter a weekend-long game of charades. There are some kids that didn’t know that hiking wasn’t for them and they may never come back, but all of them, we hope, leave FHP feeling a little bit more at home in Australia, which in turn, will make a better Australia. We are all in this together.
Every journey begins with a first step. I may have taken the first step alone but by the second step I had company. I have had many mates join me in these small beginnings because people want to be part of small beginnings and everyone wants to make a difference. Together, we have overcome the darkness by focusing on an individual first step and together we are making something happen. It’s not perfect and we are not there to get it right but I’m glad the starter’s gun went off and I’m racing with a bunch of good people who are brave enough to take the simple (and sometimes cliched) mantra of “be the change you want to see in the world”.