Having just returned from a week of family time in Scotland, I’m acutely aware of the fact that this month's Postcard is being written on Hogmanay – that ancient end of year celebration that the Scots find even more meaningful than Christmas. It’s not to be rude about the Scots and their religious commitments to the meaning of Christmas. On the contrary, few realize that Christmas celebrations were abolished there during the 16th Century as part of the Scottish Reformation and that continued to be the case for nearly 400 years! Thus Hogmanay and the beginning of a New Year are widely celebrated by the Scots, highlighting ancient links with the Vikings. Auld Lang Syne is sung and tradition has it that your New Year will be a prosperous one if shortly after midnight a “tall dark stranger” appears at your door “first footing” with a lump of coal for the fire and something to eat offering good will. In return you offer a dram of the amber liquid and exchange good wishes for the coming year. Being neither tall nor dark, (a blonde visitor of the Viking variety was not a very good omen!) I guess you'll just have to accept my humble good wishes for 2005 and remember that we were toasting absent friends while camping with new friends in the desert in Oman.
Camping in the Omani Desert, New Year’s Day 2005
2004 presented many challenges, right up to the last week with the greatest natural disaster in recent history killing or maiming nearly a quarter of a million people living on the rim of the Indian ocean. As child and youth care workers, I wonder what lessons we might learn from those cataclysmic events? In the Gulf News I was reading an article released by the Associated Press drawing attention to the way that wildlife officials in Sri Lanka were surprised to find no evidence of large-scale animal deaths from the weekend's massive tsunami “indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground. Then I have been struck by the accounts of survivors who said they had noticed how the ocean water had “changed” prompting them to move back away from the seashore. Those who had no prior warning or who didn’t pay attention while basking in the sunshine of paradise rarely survived. Some were said to have passively accepted their fate while others struggled against the odds “surviving to tell of encounters with nature’s awesome spectacle called tsunami.
Thanks to Lester Levy collection
It made me think how often do we in child and youth care work pay close attention to subtle changes to the way the water is looking or the sounds of silence that precede a cataclysmic event? How alert are we to the possibilities and what might be starting to unfold? Or are we frequently bowled over by the unexpected? Kids aren’t like a tsunami wave but they do get churned up by incredible emotions – both joyous and scary – that impact their behaviours sometimes in ways we least expect. As child and youth care workers we can choose to be reactive or proactive, to be responsive to developmental needs or controlling after the waves have already started rolling in.
And so the journey continues into 2005!
I hope 2005 will see us ever mindful of the Scouting motto “Be Prepared”. May you seek after peace and be alert to the sights and sounds of trouble brewing – while there is time for pro-active responses. May the Peace be upon you and yours in the weeks ahead. And remember, a kind word and a smile can often work miracles!