Monday Musings–Good Intentions

GOOD INTENTIONS

We all have our ideas how the world should run. We think we know what’s best, what’s good, and what will work. If only everyone would follow our advice, the world would be a paradise.

When I was twelve, my parents thought it best I go to a new school for my last year at primary school. That school was a feeder school to the secondary school they planned to send me.

*[Photo 1: Full of hope of a new adventure © M.E. Trudinger 1975]

‘You’ll make some friends who’ll be there for you when you go to high school,’ they said.

Good intentions; a sound plan for transition…

Their plans just didn’t work out as they intended.

Two weeks into first term at that new school, I realised I’d connected with nobody. The girls in my class had formed their tight-knit friendship groups way back in Year 1, so I had no friend-prospects.

At recess, I sat alone Indian-style on the grass under a tree. Never mind, I thought, my books are my friends. I’ll read out the year. I opened my latest novel. Besides, I have plenty of friends outside of this school.

For the next few days nobody and my books kept me company at recess and lunch. What better way of dealing with loneliness of an hour by entering another world and the characters there. No different from the previous year at my old school when I ignored my friends in preference to researching dinosaurs and aliens in outer space.

*[Photo 2: One of my books, the Lost World of the Wends © L.M. Kling 2021]

Then the good intentions of the teachers came into play. The new Year 7 girl reading her books every break? Oh, no! We can’t have that! She must socialise.

So, with good intentions, the teachers denied me the joy and escape of reading. They forced me to play with my peers.

However, my peers, comfortable with their set, didn’t appreciate the teacher’s good intentions. As I followed one group into the girls’ toilets, the leader spoke up. ‘Nothing personal, but stop shadowing us.’

Fine then. I wiped the tears stinging the corners of my eyes and bit my lip. Sorry for upsetting your perfect little life. I’ll go find someone else to be my friend.

Soon after, I teamed up with a Year 6 girl. She sat on her own at lunch. I’d been kicked off the bench by the other cohort of Year 7 girls because I liked cheese and gherkin sandwiches. Rather than making a big deal of the excommunication, I wandered over to the Year 6 girl and sat beside her. She didn’t mind my choice of lunch.

*[Photo 3: Happiness is a friend, Poatina Tasmania © L.M. Kling 2010]

For the next week, we enjoyed each other’s company. We played on the monkey bars and joined others in her class playing four-square (a type of hand-tennis). For five days, my cliquey peers were happy, the teachers were happy, and I was happy. I’d found a friend.

But good things were not meant to last at this new school. The beginning of March, and just a hint of an autumn-south-westerly breezed through the classroom porches. I kicked off my shoes, pulled on my scuffs (major rule: no shoes inside the classroom), and lined up ready to enter class. The Year 6 teacher sought me out and took me aside. ‘You aren’t allowed to play with Year 6 students,’ they said. ‘It’s against the school rules.’

*[Photo 4: Beginnings of autumn © L.M. Kling 2021]

The school with good intentions had a rule: Students must only mix with students the same age as them and from their class.

So again, good intentions forced me out on my own again. I rode home that day, tears streaming down my face. I failed to understand. The injustice of it. They want me to socialise and then thwart every effort for me to do so, with all their damn rules.

With good intentions, the next day, Mum marched into the office and spoke to my teacher. With good intentions, my teacher reprimanded the girls in my class.

Made no difference. My peers wanted no part of those good intentions. And they didn’t like being told off. Not one bit. I paid for those good intentions right through secondary school, actually.

I considered making friends with some boys in my class. But after one day sitting at a table in class with them, I figured that making friends with the boys in my class wasn’t an option. Probably a rule about that too. After all, our teacher gave us a lecture on the evils of wearing bikinis…so…

[Photo 5: Beware, the bikini…modesty at Moana © R. Trudinger 1982]

For the rest of that year, I became very good at keeping out of the supervising teacher’s gaze at lunchtime and pretending to play with my peers while making sure I didn’t appear to be “shadowing” them. The bullies helped this charade by “shadowing” me. Not that I appreciated their efforts at the time. As the year wore on, I managed some illicit liaisons with my books behind the bushes, when the teachers weren’t looking.

My mum carried the burden of guilt from her good intentions of the year I lived friendlessly. But she needn’t be. My parents’ intentions were good. Though I suffered, these challenges were good for me. I learnt to persevere. I learnt that being alone doesn’t mean that I must be lonely. God was and is with me. I learnt not to quit. In short, I developed character. Besides, this school inspired me to learn the Japanese language, setting me on my future career path teaching the Japanese language, as well as travelling in Japan. And most of all, I learnt to see the kids sitting on their own and be their friend.

[Photo 6: Tokeiji, Japan © L.M. Kling 1984]

Yes, good intentions may not work out as we intended, but God can turn around our struggles, and our failures, with His best intentions for us.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:28

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2022

*Feature Photo: Alone, in Japan © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 1985

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Read the stories inspired by the year of living friendlessly…

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The Lost World of the Wends

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Monday Musing–Be Still

BE STILL

I go to the shops as I do every second day. At the checkout, the girl asks, ‘And how has your day been?’

‘Busy,’ I say.

‘That’s good,’ the girl says with a sage nod as if involved in some conspiracy to keep me on the hamster wheel of busyness.

In the Twenty-first century world “busyness” is good. Not being busy, then, is undesirable. Our Western Protestant work ethic touts, ‘Idleness is the devil’s workshop’. The state of “idleness” is to be avoided at all costs. These days, we equate idleness with boredom.

‘I’m bored,’ say your children (so did mine, when they were children many years ago, back in the good ol’ 1990’s), and terror strikes at the heart of each mother when they hear these words. Bored? We can’t have our children bored—idle—just imagine what devils will come to play if we allow boredom to fester. First, the grizzling, then, the niggling at each other, and before long, World War Three amongst the siblings and the house ends up looking like the Apocalypse.

*[Photo 1: The computer, the answer to all who cry, “I’m bored!” © L.M. Kling 2007]

No, we can’t have boredom.

So, in my quieter times now, I reminisce the days as a young mother, structuring each day, every hour—especially during the holidays, to avoid boredom—any strategy to avoid my tribe from becoming restless.

‘What’s wrong with a bit of boredom,’ my mother would say. ‘They need to learn to entertain themselves, you know, use their imagination. Nothing wrong with being still for a while, I say.’

Mum should know, she grew up in the Centre of Australia on a mission in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Those were the really good ol’ days with no shopping centres, no electronic games, nor television. They did have radio, but her minister father only allowed the news to be heard from it. Heaven forbid they listen to modern music. During the War, even the radio was confiscated by the allies. So all my mum as a girl had to entertain herself were books. Even so, the Protestant work ethic was a major value in mum’s family as her mother, when she found her daughter reading would say, ‘Isn’t there some housework you should be doing?’

*[Photo 2: In the good ol’ days, being productive. Making kangaroo-skin rugs © S.O. Gross circa 1940]

As expected, then, I grow up in a world that values industry, productivity and filling each day to the full. The schools I attend are hot on producing good grades, projects and students who go on to university and become wealth-producing citizens.

Then, at sixteen, I have a revelation. We sing a chorus at church, “Be Still and know I am God”.

Being still…forget the homework…forget the housework…put aside my racing head of worries…centre my thoughts on God and his greatness. Pause for a moment and remember, God is God and He’s in control.

So at sixteen, I do just as the chorus bids. I hop on my deadly treadly (bike), and pedal down to the beach. I figure that’s the best place to be still; the waves lapping the sand, the sun on my back as I comb the shore for shells. Or on a sunny afternoon, I lie in the backyard and sunbake, think and ponder.

*[Photo 3: Entertainment of Seal, Glenelg South © L.M. Kling 2022]

The result? Wow! Those mountains? School and pedantic teachers going on about uniform—my socks, my hair? Boyfriends or lack of them? Life and my future? …All my concerns become molehills.

December 1979, I write a poem “Be Still”. Perhaps not the greatest work of literature, but the values stick with me…until I embark on university, work, and then a family. The poem hides in a book of my teenage missives. Ten years ago, I pull it out for a devotion. I preach being still, but I fail to apply the principles. I must keep busy. If I stop, even for a few minutes, what will others think? There’s just too much to do. Everyone’s depending on me as wife, mother, bible study leader, committee member …to produce the goods. I can’t let them down.

The culture to keep moving is ingrained. Go to meet people for the first time and they ask, ‘What do you do?’ The doing has to have a dollar sign attached to it. Not enough to do all the above as a mother. Must produce money to have status in the group. Without status, I am not heard. Ironic how the under-valued creative arts of writing and painting, though, afford status. I am creating. I am producing.

*[Painting 1: Life after Lock-down, Port Willunga © L.M. Kling 2020]

Even so, in this creative phase of my life, if I stand still, I feel guilty. Now, there are novels to write and art to produce. My “work”. I’m on the hamster wheel, but I can’t get off.

However, in all the busyness expected of me, the cogs of my life are unravelling. I drive to a cafe to meet a friend. She’s not there. I’d forgotten my mobile phone. I drive the thirty-minute return home and check my phone and then ring her. I’d gone to the wrong place. A misunderstanding. If I had taken the time to listen and ask the right questions…

The voice of my sixteen-year-old self still convicts me. ‘Be Still’.

For over forty years, I’d not been following my own advice. After the misunderstanding of the other day, I give myself permission to have time each day to rest…Time to be still…time to know God.

*[Painting 2: Sleeping Beauty on Huon, Tasmania © L.M. Kling]

So in the voice of my sixteen-year-old self, the poem:

Be Still

Exhausted, yet restless to advance

Ever onward in a trance,

A weary traveller

Refused to look around

So lost the intimate beauties which could be found.

Be still,

And know God the eternal creator.

Furtive, frustrated, fraught we flee,

When confusion bears down on thee,

A weary traveller.

Failure looms, chaos glooms,

In life, this lonely room.

Be still,

And wing your eyes

To soar above the clutter.

Marvel at the vastness of creation

Where God lies.

If what we infinitely fear

Will produce a lonely tear,

Of a weary traveller,

We blind ourselves with sorrows

Clinging to illusions of good morrows.

Be still,

Capture destiny in your heart,

For God said, “Let it be”.

See the beauty of it’s part.

Learn from what it has to offer

Ignore the scoffer.

A weary traveller did relent,

When Jesus was sent.

Be still,

While He,

Our hungry souls will fill.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling (nee Trudinger) 1979

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2022

*Feature Photo: Cradle Mountain, Tasmania © L.M. Kling 2009

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The Lost World of the Wends

The Hitch-hiker

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Trekking with the T-Team: Central Australian Safari