Miracle Mother

“Mum Shirl’s enormous compassion and her endless generosity towards all people in need were without equal . . . She will never be forgotten for her tireless work for justice for the Aboriginal people”

August 9th marks International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. According to the United Nations,

Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live . . . Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history, their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world.

One of my favorite units to write for the Curriculum was the one on Australia, probably because I was least familiar with that country’s history and was absolutely fascinated by all that I learned. Though there are many inspiring Australians I could have written on, I chose to focus on the Aboriginal community’s history as well as its long quest for dignity and equality in modern-day Australia. The peace heroes featured in that unit are amazing individuals who found ways to make a change for good in that tangled and often tragic story. On this day, which honors the world’s Indigenous people, it is my privilege and honor to share an abridged version of one of these heroes’ biographies – an Aboriginal woman whose life of limitless compassion has left its indelible mark on Australian history. Continue reading “Miracle Mother”

Starved for Dignity

The beggar in downtown Jerusalem taught me that the greatest gift we can give each other is the gift of acceptance. It might seem like a small step, but in choosing to affirm human dignity – to accept people because they are people – we inadvertently declare war on one of the most consistent violators of human freedom

Many years ago I was walking in downtown Jerusalem and came to a major intersection where I had to wait for the pedestrian light to turn green. In that short minute, an old, hunchbacked beggar shuffled up to the crowd of delayed pedestrians and began shaking his little coin-filled plastic cup in our faces – something all of us tried very hard to ignore. I was relieved when the light turned green and I could hurriedly walk away from this awkward encounter. But as I reached the other side, the sudden blaring of car horns made me turn my head, and I was horrified to see the old man slowly limping his way across the busy street. Muttering under my breath, I ran into the street, grabbed the beggar by his elbow, and led him to safety. Feeling a touch of guilt, I grabbed a few coins from my pocket and tossed them into the beggar’s hand. But before I quite understood what was happening, he gently placed the coins back into my hand, leaned forward and whispered, “Thank you – for touching me,” before slowly making his way to another group of delayed pedestrians.

I stood there, in the midst of all the city’s chaos, completely stunned.

Continue reading “Starved for Dignity”