Getting a bigger view is often risky. In 1995, together with our two small children (then aged 3 and 1), we left Australia to live in the great lakes region of Africa. Challenged by the appreciation that those with a present abundance might share with those who currently want (2 Corinthians 8:8-15), we went to work with the Tanzanian church.
We did not really anticipate the breadth of adjectives that would come to describe the next 9 years – wonderful, exhilarating, painful, frustrating, uplifting, breathtaking, alienating, debilitating, humbling, precious, humourous – to list just a few!
We often look winsomely back on those years of risky adventure. In hindsight we recognise that even our failings slowly and often painfully stretched our character and abilities till they almost caught up with us as we lived beyond our horizon.
Our children tagged along with us. We simply picked up the two, added one on the way, and stumbled into adventure and mishap and everything in between. Rural Africa was a wonderful place to bring up children. Their whiteness stole from them anonymity but ensured them a visual place in the community – allowing them to wander and explore under the watchful eyes of many.
We now live in Vaucluse, Sydney. Many things have changed. Anonymity has been returned. But more and more I’m convinced that a spirit of adventure, which risks and allows failure, must be fostered.
According to the 2010 Easter Edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, children are being turned into quitters and made less independent. Who is to blame? Apparently their fail proofing, success seeding, ever affirming and rescuer ready parents! These parents are described as Helicopter parents. I am very sympathetic to the helicopter parent, and find myself often hovering (Are there any parents who have not!). But 18 years of parenting and 9 years in Africa continuously challenge me to reduce helicopter emissions and aim at the more earthy non-anxious but present parent (E.H.Friedman).
I hope that with helicopter parked I can not only let my children get on with learning from both success and failure but also allow me to get on with my life. Perhaps then my children, who I can no longer just ‘pick up ….. and stumble into adventure and mishap’, may nevertheless continue to be drawn, by example, into living even a touch beyond the horizon. W.H.Auden, one of the great Christian poets of the twentieth century, edges me, and them, to be so!!
O Where Are You Going?
"O where are you going?" said reader to rider,
"That valley is fatal where furnaces burn,
Yonder's the midden whose odours will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return."
"O do you imagine," said fearer to farer,
"That dusk will delay on your path to the pass,
Your diligent looking discover the lacking,
Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?"
"O what was that bird," said horror to hearer,
"Did you see that shape in the twisted trees?
Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly,
The spot on your skin is a shocking disease."
"Out of this house"---said rider to reader,
"Yours never will"---said farer to fearer
"They're looking for you"---said hearer to horror,
As he left them there, as he left them there.