A departure from fantasy review to reflect on how lucky we are. This is a letter I wrote for my daughter, on her christening day last Sunday.
I attended the wedding of a dear friend, only a few months ago. When you have been to as many weddings as I, you will know that wedding speeches are all very much the same. The bride and groom thank each other for being so wonderful, they thank their parents, they thank their guests, they thank the master of ceremonies and the dj, and the caterers and the florist. But my dear friend looked around the room and said. “I am so thankful that I live in this country, a land of abundance and wealth and opportunity.”
Her words resonated with me. I was not born in this country, but I was bred here, and Australia and the opportunities that it affords is all I have ever known. I take for granted that I can read and write. I take for granted my university education. I take for granted that I freely married the man I love, that I have a career, that I have a right to free speech, that I can vote, that I can drive, that my voice will be heard. I take this for granted because I have never known anything else.
Your father’s family are immigrants. They fled their homeland to seek out new opportunities. Your grandparents know what it is like to face war, to face religious and racial persecution. While your father and I were at high school (before we met each other) with no greater cares than passing a maths exam, his cousins were hiding from bombs and running from bullets. When you are older, my daughter, you will travel to this beautiful country, and you will see the scars that war leaves on the people and the land.
Today is your Christening day, and today as I took out your new dress I thought of all of the people in the world who have only the clothes on their backs, and I gave thanks for how lucky I am. As I ate my breakfast of strudel made by your grandmother, I thought of all the people in the world who are starving, and I gave thanks for how lucky I am. And as I wrapped you in my arms, and prepared you for your baptism, I thought of all the people who are separated from their families by war, or illness, or accident, or circumstance, and I gave thanks for how lucky I am.
I wish so much for you, my daughter. I wish you to grow to be a good person. I hope that you are generous with your time and your money. I hope that you love and are loved, that you find a man who is as loving to you as your father is to me, and that you marry him and have a family of your own. I hope you find a career that fulfils you, have hobbies that excite you, and have friends who make you laugh with joy.
I hope that all your worries in life are trifling; whether to wear the green dress or the blue, whether to buy a ford or a holden, whether to vote liberal, labor or the greens, and which exotic overseas destination you will travel to next. I hope that you never have to face war, or famine, or disease, that you never know persecution for your race or your faith or your gender, that you never have to worry about how you will clothe or feed your children, or how to protect them from the harm of others. I hope that while you are young, you will not even be able imagine a world without law and order, without services like schools and hospitals and libraries and supermarkets, a world without democracy, without technology, without electricity and running water.
I wish so much for you, my daughter. But above all, I hope that you can take for granted, all that I have taken for granted. And when you are older, I hope that you will look at others in the world and give thanks, and realise just how lucky you are.