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A Message To Mums

By Bronwyn Bay

My mother and father grew up in a society with no overprotective impulses—totally without cotton wool, as we say in New Zealand. Kids got on their bikes and were gone for the day. All was well as long as they were home for supper, or there’d be hell to pay.

For my friends and me, I wouldn’t say there was cotton wool, but there was a small amount of padding. I could walk to my friend’s house to play, but I had to ask my parents first and tell them where I was going. Not as carefree (and, perhaps, reckless) as my parents’ upbringing, but sensible.

Today, however, the pendulum has swung into a sort of eggshell, bubble-wrapped, red-tape nightmare where every stranger is a potential pedophile, kidnapper, thief or con artist. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration— but people are truly scared. They’ve bought into a global media message that humans are despicable.

Everywhere you turn there’s a new story, Facebook post or radio discussion outlining the latest terrible thing someone has done to someone else. With all this negativity circulating, it’s a wonder we don’t build big fences and hide under our beds.

The message being fed to the masses is that there are a lot of terrible, violent, self-centered people out there. From within me, my heart shouts, “This is a lie!” I’m not saying people don’t do terrible things. I’m saying that those things are all we hear about, and it’s only a portion of reality. There are countless instances of people being generous, helpful, kind and caring to each other. People are smiling and saying hello to each other—it’s true! But such occurrences are hardly going to make it into the newspapers, are they?

The feeling within multiple communities has turned toxic and fear-ridden. Many people don’t know their neighbors. They don’t chat with local store owners. People are too busy rushing through all the must-do tasks of the day that they don’t have the chance to look into someone’s eyes and ask, “How are you?” with meaning and genuine concern. We’ve made all sorts of technological advances as a society. Perhaps we’ve come to a point where we’ve convinced ourselves (or been convinced by others) that we don’t need each other? Or that we shouldn’t need each other?

Even though we stand side by side in cities, workplaces, on the road and walking down the street, we have lost sight of each other. We’ve been blinded by the lie that says if we all just look out for ourselves, everyone will be just fine. But it’s not fine, is it? Because this lie creates a self-centered environment in which people decide they won’t let that car merge in front of them, or allow someone else to go first, or hold that door. So it continues, as people keep trying to rise up into a better life for themselves—to the point that they would scramble on top of each other to get there.

Whatever it is that’s happened, we’ve become closed off from one another. But all is not lost. We can change it; I feel it deep in my bones. Changing how our community functions and how we relate to each other is within our grasp. It isn’t something that people from some sort of self-imposed place of importance need to tell us to do. We don’t need permission to connect with each other; we don’t need to wait for someone to start an organization, charity or committee. We can do it now, because we want our children to grow up knowing that people are capable of wonderful things, that it costs nothing to connect, and that kindness is as simple as a heartfelt smile and a hello.

As we work on coming together in our community we will begin to see a new day become our everyday experience. A community in which mums no longer feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but in which they are celebrated for their strength and courage in being vulnerable. A community in which helping is not considered an act of trade where a return favor is due. Where helping another is considered a great honor by those who would cast off the fear of being drained by another’s need, and instead receive the great joy of lifting a sister to her feet. Where receiving help would not be considered a debt of shame, in which countless thank yous are spewed and promises of a return offering are required, but instead received as a gift from the bonds of sisterhood and met only with love, appreciation, gratitude and a warm embrace.

So I put out the call to all those who would answer. To whom this reaches and stirs something deep inside. The only way we are going to create a community with heart is to start communicating to each other with heart. The only way we are going to create a community that looks out for each other and trusts is to start looking out for each other and trusting. In an amazing display of courage to our children, we must lay down our fearful beliefs and say, “Yes, painful things happen to people, but I will not let this stop me from being a person that does kind and caring things for others.”

And it starts with us, the mums. Why? Because we do everything else? No, because now is the time for women around the world to step up and take our place as the equal other to the masculine. Through her strength, courage, vulnerability, compassion, caring and willingness to connect, a mother has the power to lift her whole family. It’s our time to be the ones who would take the clay of our community and mold it into a connected hub that responds to its inhabitants with love, warmth, empathy and compassion.

Stand with me, mothers. Stand with me.