BY LOUISE McKEOGH
The jacaranda tree in our back yard has been in full bloom. Every day over the past three weeks, someone from our community has had to sweep up the carpet of purple flowers that cover our back yard.
Each morning the car has been covered with a purple sprinkling, but in the rush to get to work a quick swish of the wipers has to suffice to flick them away.
For me, what has been most striking about being back in Sydney is the purple hue of the jacarandas at this time of year. Nature seems to be reminding me with its vibrant purple that Advent is coming, its purple covering preparing for this Sunday's Feast of Christ the King.
In human colour psychology, purple is also associated with royalty and nobility, stemming from classical antiquity when only the elite could afford purple dye. The Gospel for Christ the King tells us that Christ’s Kingdom is to bring forth the reign of God. It says his was a leadership to inspire, empower and transform our lives.
As the jacarandas remind us of the coming of Advent, a recent encounter demonstrated to me the slowly evolving daily transformations that can bring about the reign of God.
I went along to an AGM expecting this meeting to be formal, and secretly hoped that it would not be tedious, especially as I looked at the other tasks on my list of things to do that day.
I found the opposite, with the Sydney Street Choir singing and their presence transforming the meeting. The Choir’s mission is to connect with, inspire and empower those who are living or working in homeless or disadvantaged communities – creating music, performances and creative expressions that truly open people’s hearts. They are changing lives through the power of song.
The Street Choir was founded by Jonathon Welsh, who is known for the Choir of Hard Knocks.
What struck me about the Sydney Street Choir was how music and being a member of the Choir slowly transforms lives, giving people a community, a place of belonging, and a chance to tell their story and taking actions to change lives.
Recently, a friend has been having a very difficult time at work, and I have been struck by just how important her need to tell and share her experience was. I tried to be an attentive listener, and at times couldn’t help butting in and sharing similar stories.
However, in the action of my friend sharing her story with several people, transformation occurred. Her sense of hope was restored, and she was affirmed in the skills, ability and talents that she brings to her work.
The year has been full of many transformative stories; films such as Our Generation and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, the stories of asylum seekers and refugees, and Sydney’s Tree House Theatre.
I was reminded so much of the work of The Alban Institute in the area of Narrative Leadership, reflecting on the story telling of Christ, the parables, his listening to the woman at the well, and to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
“Telling stories of our individual faith journey, of our church’s past, of our surrounding communities, of our own traditions, however we do so not just to reclaim the past but primarily to help discern the present and imagine a new future.”
We can grieve for the stories not told, when we could not sit down at table together and share the stories of the day, we celebrate those stories we have shared.
Some of my best times in Adelaide were spent with indigenous young people from remote communities. On a Saturday night we would build a camp fire and sit around telling stories of family. The older ladies would share stories of the past, there would be a moment of quiet reflection, watching the flickering flames as each of us imagined the stories of the future.
Last Saturday, my community celebrated what we called Gratitude Day, which was a time to sit quietly and reflect on the stories of the year, the joys and the sorrows, taking stock of God’s presence in all. My purple jacaranda was telling me that it was time to stop and pause for a moment in the hectic schedule of life and listen to the stories of the year, then like the purple that transforms the garden, let the spirit guide us to act again.
Sister Louise McKeogh FMA is Caritas and Social Justice Office Coordinator for the Diocese of Parramatta.
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