Harbor of Hope

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Hannah was the first to respond with her recollections of cyclone Winifred which cut a swathe through Innisfail 16 years ago. On that occasion, we certainly felt the force of nature in a bad mood. The cyclone devastated many homes, including Pat and Laura’s and Alister and Lyn’s beautiful homes on Coquette Point. Let’s hope the sun is shining gently on your faces as you read this.

My main news for this week is that our grief counselling project “Harbor of Hope” finally had its first session last Thursday night. After many weeks of training, preparation, and anticipation on our part, and considerable effort and promotion on the part of Heather and Carol, the project leaders, we at last had the chance to offer the program to the community.

The project is primarily directed towards children who have lost a parent or a sibling, and is designed to involve as many of the immediate family as possible. Heather is a professor in the Counselling and Guidance Department at Purdue and is planning to run this as a research project on future occasions. This initial project was to be a pilot run to see just how it would go. The plan was that families would be split according to age group, and that four groups would run separately, then meet for a closing rite, every second Thursday night until May. The age groups would be 5-8 years, 9-12 years, teens, and adults. I volunteered to work with the teen group. My friend Sue opted for the adults.

As with all new programs, it is difficult to get people interested, and I think this particular sort of program is even more difficult. Grief is a very private thing and many may be reluctant to came to discuss it with others. However, we are all very committed to the program and know that there are many people who would be interested if they knew about it, and many who would definitely benefit from it. We were disappointed that only two families signed up for the project and as it turned out, both families had teenage children only. This was particularly disappointing for the people who had volunteered to work with the other age groups. Some of them came along anyway to help with setting up and catering etc.

My co-facilitator, Betsy, and I were somewhat nervous as we arrived to meet our young people. We were again disappointed when one of the families didn’t turn up, leaving us with just one family – a 16 year old boy, his 17 year old sister, and their father. We had discussed this possibility the previous week and had decided that we would proceed even for one family, if they were willing to continue. They were most keen as they saw they had many issues which needed to be talked through. The name, “The Harbor”, was coined to emphasise that this was a safe place where feelings and issues could be expressed and shared and respected. The first night was reasonably successful. I will declare it very successful if the family comes back next week. I think they will. Both of the kids are really great to work with. They get on very well together and are open and keen to participate in discussion and activities. I look forward to working through the whole program with them. I truly see that it is a great honour and privilege to be allowed to share something so intimate and personal with them.

The other good thing about my involvement in the Harbor is that it led me to my friend, Sue. She and I are kindred spirits and enjoy many hours talking, playing, and even working together. Sue has taken me under her wing and has been very generous offering me things as I need them. I am most delighted about the spare vacuum cleaner that she has let me borrow. I had bought an el cheapo vacuum cleaner when we first arrived. It is okay on big bits of light junk, but is worse than useless on small bits such as threads. Now anyone who has done sewing in a carpeted room knows that the main concern, even obsession, of your life becomes threads, and each time I vacuumed, I had to get down on my hands and knees, gather all the threads into balls that I could then shove into the vacuum nozzle. I could have achieved an equally good effect with a straw! I hadn’t even mentioned this problem to Sue when she asked did I need a vacuum cleaner as she had a spare one. This little beauty is the same teal colour as my car, has headlights like my car, and probably has more power than my car! It is fantastic. There is not a speck of dust or piece of thread anywhere to be seen now.

Sue has a wonderful husband, Kent, who works as a systems adviser for Sun computers. His office is at their home, but he has regular flights to various parts of the States to deal with his many clients. Kent and the oldest son, Alex, 19, are also keen mechanics. I wish dad, Harvey, Lea, Liam and Matt could see their workshop. It’s enough to make Tim Taylor bright green with envy. They have every tool you could imagine and a full electric hoist so they can work under their cars in comfort and safety. Kent was my natural choice as adviser when our little car started having some early morning gear changing problems. Peter was concerned we may be about to have major transmission failure. Luckily Kent thinks there is no real problem, and has offered to change the transmission fluid for us next weekend. We were delighted with the news and have happily accepted his kind offer. We now are confident enough to drive the car to Texas to see Genny and Murray next month.

Sue grew up in Lafayette, and graduated from Purdue, so she is a real local. They have a most beautiful home which is a very tasteful mixture of German (Kent’s family is of German heritage and his father built the house) and American styles. The family have travelled overseas and around the States, and I am hoping their next trip will be to Australia. Their daughter, Heidi, is 22 and they have a younger son, Nicholas, 16. They are a delight.

I have been thoroughly enjoying the Olympics, as I’m sure you all have too. These winter events are far more insane than the summer events. It is exciting but nerve-wracking watching the athletes hurl themselves off flight decks, hurtle at break-neck speed down perilously slick slopes, or speed, twirl, and tip-toe across the ice. There have not been a lot of Aussies to cheer so far, but as I am also cheering for Switzerland and USA, I have been kept busy.

My question this week is: What saint’s day do we celebrate this Thursday? Please accept my loving greeting to all of you!