THIS ( PRIV­I­LEGED) LIFE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints - DI LYMBURY

SUN­DAY morn­ing has be­come a rou­tine for our fam­ily. There is no longer a lazy sleep- in fol­lowed by a leisurely break­fast over the Sun­day pa­pers. We don’t mind.

Af­ter an early rise, we rush through the morn­ing ablu­tions, fol­lowed by a hur­ried break­fast. Shortly there­after we head off down the free­way to an ex­tra­or­di­nary ren­dezvous.

Ex­it­ing the free­way, we drive to the out­skirts of a coun­try town and up a nar­row rural lane to

the farm’’ where our son lives, along with more than 100 other men. They are of all ages and from many na­tion­al­i­ties and back­grounds but they share one thing in com­mon: at least one form of ad­dic­tion. Some are re­cov­er­ing al­co­holics, some are re­cov­er­ing drug ad­dicts, some are re­cov­er­ing gam­blers, and some are all three.

Sun­day morn­ings see their friends and fam­i­lies ar­riv­ing for a morn­ing church ser­vice and a time of shar­ing their sto­ries be­fore they meet their own fam­i­lies. In some cases this is the first time in many years they have known any qual­ity time with their loved ones. This place is like that. As we min­gle be­fore the ser­vice, we are struck by the or­di­nar­i­ness of the fam­i­lies gath­ered. It could be any reg­u­lar gath­er­ing, and there ap­pears noth­ing re­mark­able about this group. The very nor­malcy of it hits home.

There is one thing, how­ever, that is no­table about the men at the farm. As they greet their vis­i­tors they are all dressed in fresh, tidy, well­pressed at­tire. They are clean shaven and their neat hair re­flects the care they have taken with their ap­pear­ance.

All are wear­ing en­closed footwear, hav­ing re­jected thongs and san­dals. Th­ese may seem tiny de­tails, but their fam­i­lies know bet­ter and shake their heads in won­der. This place!

Many par­tic­i­pants es­cort their fam­i­lies around the farm, ex­plor­ing the gar­dens and tak­ing plea­sure from the peace­ful sur­round­ings. The fam­i­lies are in awe that the par­tic­i­pants are re­spon­si­ble for the day- to- day run­ning of the farm and are ea­ger to hear of the role their fam­ily mem­ber plays.

The Sun­day ser­vice is a time of cel­e­bra­tion. It is a time of mend­ing and a time of re­newed re­spect for all present, for life, for those around us and for our­selves. It just hap­pens that way. We are quickly dis­cov­er­ing that it is not un­usual to be touched by the par­tic­i­pants at the farm.

One day we were very moved. The sharer at the Sun­day ser­vice was a re­cov­er­ing gam­bler. His courage in shar­ing his story of child­hood abuse and ne­glect that even­tu­ally led him to a life of gam­bling was as­tound­ing. We felt so touched, and it is amaz­ing that when some­one touches you, you feel this strong de­sire to reach out to them in re­turn.

Af­ter the ser­vice, many con­grat­u­lated this young man for his for­ti­tude, with the hope that this strength was the be­gin­ning of a new life that would see him deal with his ad­dic­tion.

We meet the peo­ple who run this place and each time marvel at their hu­mil­ity and in­cred­i­ble ac­cep­tance and skill in pro­vid­ing a firm yet for­giv­ing en­vi­ron­ment in which th­ese bro­ken peo­ple may or may not heal.

They recog­nise that small steps here are big steps and give thanks and heart­felt con­grat­u­la­tions for any move­ment to­wards well­be­ing. Some­times this is the first time for many years that the par­tic­i­pants have had any rea­son for self- con­grat­u­la­tion. It is to­tally un­ex­pected and, af­ter the life jour­ney that brought us here, we feel priv­i­leged to be a part of this place.

this­life@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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