Bridging the divide

I would like to share a story that happened over the weekend. I think there is something in here for us to consider, in our mutual quest of Regeneration.

I went away camping with my partner, in a remote campground near the Cox’s River. We were seeking silence, nature etc. Many had hiked in but some of the campers drove.

After night had fallen, there was a bit of a ruckus. A woman shouting, and a man yelling drunkenly and loudly, torches shining and general discontent.

This continued for a while, and the culprits were a large group of young Nepalese folks who had come in a van. It got to the point that one of the group called the Police on another one, who drove a very long way to treat the incident. Apparently one of the guys was blind drunk, had taken a swing at his girlfriend and was fighting with his mates.

The next morning, after hearing some of the gossip from our neighbour, I walked over to confront the guy. I was ready to deliver a “You’re an idiot wife-beater” lecture, and wanted to show my feminine solidarity.

When I found the culprit he willingly spoke to me, apologised profusely, said he couldn’t remember much of the night at all and showed me a nearly empty bottle of rum. I started asking him if this had happened before, if he drank often and was he concerned about what happened. “This is a sign of what is happening inside you” I said.

It turns out that at 23, he works and studies pretty much seven days, as well as sending money home to the family. He pays full fees, works shit jobs, and has never got a break in five years. I asked him what he did for fun, to relax. He arrived here at 18, and has been clawing his way ever since. He was devastated that his friends had been planning this trip for 2 months and he ruined it.

When I pressed him further about his state of mind, his eyes filled with tears. “I’m just so tired”, he said. “I can’t stop. The bills never stop. There is no-one to look out for me. My parents think I am in paradise. I haven’t been home to visit since I left”.

I thought about what that would have been like. To come here, to an utterly foreign place, with no protection, at 18 years old. To have to accept poor treatment and prejudice in one’s work (let’s face it. It’s true for migrant workers). To possibly get ripped off all the time because you don’t know what your rights are. To need to carry yourself through whatever comes, without rest. Ever.

I realised that what this young man needed was to feel safe. He kept saying “I’m not a bad guy”.

I talked to him about self-care, gave him my number and offered to look up some counselling services. I told him how important it is to take care of our mental health, as a daily practice.

Why am I sharing this story?

Because if I went into that interaction refusing to be open to what was happening, we would have just been two angry people. We would have left both feeling awful, and alienated.

My compassion for him transformed him. I could see it with my eyes. His face changed. Our hearts opened. I recognised my privilege. I recognised his struggle. We connected on a ‘same ground’.

How can we all open our hearts to the ‘other’? How can we fight tribalism with compassion and connection? How can we forget about wanting to be right and just try to be together? How can we try to give the other what they need, instead of blaming them for not being how we want them to be?

This is regeneration.

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