Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Manna Matters: Investing in Homes and People

Our financial planner is interested in chooks, gardens, and pizza; he’s a Christian and a solid, dependable member of his church. A couple of years ago, my husband and I met with him to talk about backyard fruit trees, home-grown eggs and how to extract our superannuation from the stock market. We had serious qualms about how the market operates and how our money was being invested. Therefore, we wanted to set up a self-managed super fund...

To read more, click here.

And don't forget to check out the rest of the December 2014 issue of Manna Matters, with articles on the real estate market, household covenants and establishing a health retreat for Yolngu women.

The gorgeous illustration is by Shelley Knoll-Miller.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

‘The nurture of adults by children in family settings’: Birthday cake

Someone we love is ill with depression. He also suffers from social anxiety and struggles to leave the house. When our kids ask why he doesn’t come to dinner anymore, we try to be matter-of-fact. We explain that he is not well. We explain that he has something called depression, which has various effects; among them, it is very hard for him to spend time with other people. But for all our matter-of-factness with the kids, we adults don’t feel matter-of-fact at all.

Because it’s been a long, long absence and I am beginning to realise just how much our relationship has changed. We used to invite him to things; but I realise that now we just invite his partner, and mention that he is invited too. We used to send him texts; but now, we rarely do. We used to ask him to do things, but now we are afraid of asking too much, and no longer make the requests. It’s been a gradual shift, never deliberate or intentional; but I am beginning to realise just how much we participate in and reinforce the social exclusion triggered by the illness.

And for all our tip-toeing, and wondering questions, and reading, and delicacy on his behalf, he is of course still ill. We never see him, and we miss him. We never talk, his burdens and gifts are never shared, and we still don’t know what, if anything, we can do to help.

Recently, it was my daughter’s eleventh birthday. A week before her birthday, she sought out this person’s partner and asked whether he could bake her birthday cake. When I found out, I went to my daughter and asked her about it. She hadn’t seen him for many months, and so I wondered why she had asked. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘I thought it would be good for him to be included in my birthday. And maybe to know that he can give something to me, even if his illness means he can’t come to the party. Is that okay? Do you mind?’

Tears came to my eyes. I gave her a huge hug, and I told her that she was one of the wisest and most generous people I know, adult or child. She had stepped right across an invisible, toxic social line just by asking for a small, good thing; and I recalled the ancient text: ‘sometimes a little child shall lead them.’

Through his partner, our friend agreed to my daughter’s request. He found a recipe, his partner did the shopping, and he baked the cake. His partner brought the cake to the birthday party, and we all sang Happy Birthday. We missed our friend, and wished he could have been there to sing along with us – and yet, in some ways, he was. For in our midst, at the centre of our singing, sat the cake that he had made, that precious thing my daughter had both given and received: a blessing.

And it was delicious.


The title of this post comes from a study by Elise Boulding, who asked young people how they had nurtured adults in their families while they themselves were children. The article is not easy to find, but if you want to go hunting here are the details: Boulding, E. (1980). 'The nurture of adults by children in family settings'. In H. Z. Lopata (Ed.), Research in the Interweave of Social Roles: Women and Men (Vol. 1, pp. 167-189). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

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