There’s something about taxis.
They feature remarkably frequently.
It was 2am and we’d just settled back into our taxi after stopping for a cup of sweet tea. We were travelling to Kipling Camp in northern India to see tigers.
The thick jungle-like vegetation made for a fairly monotonous journey that was, until a man walked out into the middle of the road. Our driver slowed down.
Rather than waiting for the window to be wound down, the man opened the front passenger door.
Something wasn’t right.
Our driver’s face told us all we needed to know – he was scared.
Dad managed to pull the door shut again and quickly reached around to us in the back and told us to lock the doors.
The driver was frozen with fear.
Dad was alert – more and more urgently telling him to drive and getting slightly more frantic each time he didn’t move. Finally, the driver seemed to be back in his body; his foot hit the accelerator and we roared off. We looked behind us.
In the dark, another 10 men walked into the middle of the road from the bushes.
Each was carrying a large machete.
Who knows what might have happened?
I don’t think they were expecting foreigners. The split second look of shock of the man’s face when he opened the door was enough of a delay to save us.
You don’t look at the world the same way after that.
How can you?
From an early age my parents took us travelling. Where possible, time wise and financially, we spent holidays camping in the outback, learning to 4WD, learning to like your own company, learning to appreciate and respect the ancient Aboriginal culture that forms the foundation of Australia.
Me and a shingleback lizard
Another lizard. I see a theme….
And when more money and more time permitted, we backpacked overseas. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to grow up learning about the world through the eyes of the people we met on our travels.
You start to wonder how you fit into the world.
You think about your own community and lifestyle.
You cherish the experiences because they help you start to work out the meaning of your own identity.
Like the machete-men in India, these experiences stretch you unexpectedly, but they also bring compassion. What does it take in someone’s life for them to behave that way?
THE EVOLUTION OF EXPERIENCES
Another time in India our train was held up for several hours by bandits in the middle of the night, other passengers telling us to hide as we would be easy targets.
In Egypt I remember our taxi being stopped by the police. As foreigners, we were viewed as potential drug traffickers. The doors were forced open and the police started to pull the panelling off the doors as they searched for narcotics. As a 10 year old sitting in the back seat, I started to giggle – mainly through fear, but very quickly stopped when mum’s face showed me the seriousness of the situation. On not finding any drugs our taxi was permitted to continue.
It is these very situations that have made me look at the world differently. It’s opened my eyes to the fact that everyone has a story and everyone’s story is their own.
I’m sure the men that held up our train didn’t start out in life aiming to become a bandit. Similarly, no child is born with the desire to rob a taxi with a machete.
Life changes us. We adapt to our experiences and evolve by circumstance.
The common rebuttal I hear is, Yes, but we all have a choice.
My reply then as it is now? We don’t all start at the same point…
It’s easy to judge ‘choice’, when you have one.
QUESTIONS REVEAL PERSONAL CONTEXT
I spoke to a man in Syria, who said:
We recognise that governments are different to people. I assume you are here because you want to be. Please go home and tell all your family and friends, that we too want a democracy. We are not all terrorists. We want to live our lives and bring up our families like you do.
How do you reply to that kind of comment?
How do you answer the woman also in Syria, who during the Iraq war asks you out of the blue, Do you like Iraqi people? or the woman in Vietnam who says, We are sick of people coming to look at us after the war.
How do you cope with the racist attitude of a couple in the Australia’s Northern Territory who are happy to give the man next to us a lift down the road, until they realise he’s Aboriginal? You respond in the way you know how…
You tell stories and you create community
When we share stories, we create community. We strengthen our bond to others and we find out who we are.
Storytelling has bound communities together for millennia. As the oldest civilisation in the world, Aboriginal Australians have told stories through art, painting, dance, ceremony and Country for over 50,000 years. In 2016 science finally proved this longevity.
Aboriginal people have always known it.
Because they told stories – in community – passed down through the generations.
In Indigenous communities, to witness another person’s growth and personal development is important. When we witness, it’s a public acknowledgment and celebration of their journey, their wounds and their achievements. It shifts in your body and mind.
This is why Ceremony is done in community.
It’s why we gather for celebrations, marriages and funerals.
Community is everything.
Without it, we separate from each other. We start to favour a mentality of ‘individuality over collectivism’. ‘Me’ wins over ‘you’ or ‘us’.
Community and a number of key individuals have changed my perspective. Whilst community is about a collection of people, a collection of people does not make community. The two are not the same. They shouldn’t be either.
Community is born out of a collective inclusivity. An individual is merely that. One person.
Both are enough to have changed my view of the world.
What about you?
What takes you to look at the world differently?