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Looking at Life from a Different Viewpoint

I have forwarded the latest Principal’s Update concerning the COVID-19 management process to parents and caregivers this afternoon. Thank you for your outstanding, ongoing co-operation and support in this rapidly changing and evolving situation.

Three messages are the focus of my blog today:

1. The College continues to follow the directives of the Federal and State authorities and is being well advised and supported by the Queensland Catholic Education Commission and Edmund Rice Education Australia. We will continue to do so and keep you informed.

2. The situation has the capacity to change quickly so it is important that all parents and caregivers are understanding and supportive of that. This is greatly appreciated. We are striving to plan as best as we can, but these plans may require adjustment and review subject to advice or decisions by the authorities.

3. I thought I would share my third message via a simple personal story below.

A story I have told some of the boys at ATC over the past week involves my Dad when he was a young boy. He was born in 1935 in Allora and grew up on a dairy farm. He was born at the height of the great depression and has clear memories of World War 2. My Dad remembers American soldiers preparing the ‘Brisbane Line’ strategy during the war and the various army vehicles that were brought up over Cunningham’s Gap and the American soldiers visiting the small town of Allora and Dad seeing and tasting bubble gum for the first time. It is a vivid memory for him as 2020 will be for our boys and us. The moral of the story is that these challenging times pass but we need to follow directions, look after one another and support one another. It is a time for community solidarity and responsibility. It is a time for simplicity, selflessness and kindness.

Dad has always had a world view that I have found hard to understand; living frugally, you never know what is around the corner, advising caution, prepare for the worst and so on. We get along well but have argued about this world view all of my adult life. My 84 year old Dad and I had a conversation on Saturday morning when he rang me to support me and look after me because he was a teacher and education lecturer for almost 50 years and knows and understands that it is tough in schools at present as well as elsewhere, especially the health sector. Even Mr Ryan needs his Dad!

We talked about my times working in poor and challenged regions of the world such as the remote Philippines and shanty cities such as Khayelitsha, the HIV capital of the world outside of Cape Town in South Africa. We talked about the hardships that the majority of people in the world suffer through and endure every day. I told him that as a white, male, middle class, educated, relatively wealthy Australian that I haven’t dealt with too much hardship in my life and we agreed. What we are presently experiencing and will experience in the coming months is paradigm shifting, confronting and fear fuelling. I am nervous and anxious like everyone else and I am called to share in the community leadership of our College. I don’t have all of the answers but I do have a strong faith, a heart for others, a loving family, loyal and supportive colleagues and I am surrounded by young men and boys who are full of hope for the future who need all of us to model the way.

I think that the older I get, the easier it is to relate to my Dad’s world view. As a younger person I thought it pessimistic and negative but as I have become more experienced (probably not wise enough though!) I have come to understand that his experiences have shaped him and that sign- post moments in our lives shape our understanding of self, others and the world around us. No doubt, these months of 2020 will shape us and our society. What I now know as an adult with my own children is that my Dad’s world view isn’t negative, half glass empty or hopeless (he laughs harder than me at simple jokes), he visits his friends at home, aged care or hospitals every day, he’d give you the shirt off his back, he grows his own fruit and vegetables and he’d rather go into the bank and call everyone by name and have a chat whilst visiting instead of using an ATM. My Dad is a person of hope, unconditional love, good will, humour and compassion who remembers the wonder of bubble gum in a little Australian country town when the world was at war.

Generally, I find that most teachers and people who work in schools are like my Dad; they are relational, generous, kind, forgiving and optimistic. I thank our staff who love coming to work, love the kids and love what they do. I’m blessed that my Dad called me on Saturday morning because at the end of the day, as Jesus came to remind us, love is all that really matters.

God bless

Chris Ryan