Cat Swinging

You know the phrase, ‘there’s not enough room to swing a cat’ – it doesn’t get used much any more but it was a colloquial way to say that an area or room was very small.

One reason that we don’t hear that phrase today is that, thanks to the internet, the world has fallen deeply in love with cats and no one in their right mind would think about swinging one around, even though the original meaning of the cat referred to was a type of whip – which carries with it its own set of issues.

Another reason that we don’t hear it much anymore, is that in Australia and our homes are so big, we have literally run out of opportunities to use it.

You see, Australia has the largest homes per square metre in the world and Western Australia has the largest houses in the country with the largest houses.

Out of every nation on the planet, out of the billions of homes from New Zealand to Fiji, Greenland to USA, Italy to South Africa, homes in Australia are, on average, bigger than all other opponents. Not that it’s a competition but we are winning – if winning was creating more space to put stuff in that we don’t use nor need. 1st place Australia. Something to be proud of…or not.

Normally I discourage people from comparing themselves to others, but in this situation I think it is important for us as a nation to take stock of what we have. In this case, we have enough room to swing a cat and enough money to build walls around that room so that we have somewhere to come to at the end of every day. Nobody else in the world has what we have. Nobody.

Now, don’t feel guilty about that (it’s too late anyway, it’s built, set in stone/brick so to speak), but instead use what you have (wealth) to make this world a better place (by donating to Opportunity International). It’s not about getting everyone in the world a big house, but it is about providing every person with an Opportunity to reach their full potential and provide for their family.

Gratitude Breeds Generosity

‘From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’

Have you ever wondered how some people just seem to be so happy all the time? It can be quite disconcerting as you go about your day, struggling through your afternoon slump, stressing about your upcoming deadline, cursing how quickly your last coffee was consumed, and then Mr. or Mrs. Happy pop up and share their joy of life with you, offer you a helpful suggestion with your deadline and source another coffee for you. I mean, who do they think they are? Even if you can’t think of someone you know who is like this, believe me, they are out there.

The most amazing thing is that when you find out more about these people and hear their story, you usually discover that they have had to endure, and possibly still are enduring, some incredibly difficult life circumstances, tragedy and loss. It is most often unfair and sad, yet there they stand with a smile on their face. Not a fake one either (I thought that was their trick for a while, but it is real happiness).

It turns out that, whilst not everyone who goes through hardship surfaces with a happy demeanour, those that do manage to find something in life that they are grateful for. It is a conscious effort, every day to find the good things they have and over time, that sense of gratitude overflows into generosity towards others. Gratitude breeds generosity, in all areas of life. You cannot stop it.

All action that we take is motivated by something internal.

Equality…and cake.

Have you ever been given the responsibility of cutting a birthday cake for children?

The need to get each piece the exact same size has never been so great, and when you can’t do that, each child knows who has the biggest piece and who’s piece is smallest. Of course, in that situation the easiest thing to do is to take some from the biggest piece and give it to the child with the smallest piece, so things are equal.

But you know that things are not that simple. It doesn’t matter how much you explain it with logic, and even though each child gets the same amount, the saddest child in the room is always the one who has had something taken from them. They are unable to focus on anything else except for their cake – even if it ended up being distributed with equality, they can only see what they lost.

We know what inequality is; when people are oppressed, there is injustice, parts of the community are unable to reach their full potential, and society is at odds with itself. We notice it acutely when we feel it ourselves. When, for us as individuals, life is not fair, we are not getting what we deserve, what we have worked so hard for. Somebody has taken our cake.

But there is another side to inequality and that is privilege. If there was no privilege, then inequality would not exist. From a place of privilege, it is a little difficult to notice when someone else is oppressed. It requires a courageous ability to empathise with those who are different from us; different in the way they think and approach life – it is an act of generosity to assist those who are living in the oppressed side of inequality to bring about equality. It sounds great, but the difficulty when part of our community begins to move from inequality towards equality is it usually creates a disturbance. The power that those in privilege are used to experiencing, begins to shift. When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression so moves towards equality are hindered by those in privilege, even if they want equality in theory.

We live in a world of inequality. More often than not in Australia, our experience of inequality is through privilege. We’ve been handed a very big piece of cake*. There is no one to take it off us and redistribute it to others who are oppressed so it is up to us to do that individually. But it is going to cost us. It will disrupt the power that we have.

The good news is that it doesn’t take much to get started – a gift of $100 is enough to create a small loan for a mother living in poverty in Asia so she can start a business and begin the journey out of the poverty cycle. A small, but important step in the journey of equality – giving up some of our financial power to empower someone else.

*Metaphorical cake.

Too Many Options

In our home, Friday night is take out night. Usually when my wife asks me what I feel like for take out night, I say ‘I don’t know’. Then she say she doesn’t know either and then we enter this downward spiral of indecision that lasts until we get desperate and choose the first thing that comes to mind which can turn out to be something I didn’t want in the first place.

I have discovered that the reason that we find it hard to decide is that there are so many options available that it just seems impossible to choose one. What if I choose one that I’m not happy with and I’m faced with take out regret? It’s a tough life.

I was travelling in India speaking to an Opportunity International loan client about growing her business over a few years and working her way out of poverty. She had put her two eldest daughters through tertiary education. The youngest was about to complete high school and when she was asked what do you want to do when you finish? She said, ‘I don’t know’.

It sounds like a typical teenage response, but the real reason for that answer is profound.

Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. A young women, living in a slum in India, not only being in a position to complete her high school education, but then to be in a place with so many options available to her she had trouble picking just one. She didn’t need to think about finding the highest paying career to support her family, she could choose to do what she wanted. She could dream. Try something new. Create.

That is what empowerment looks like, to have a choice. It’s the catalyst to see people reaching their full, God given potential. It’s the catalyst that creates a better world.