Where did your attitudes and perspectives come from? Many come from our elders, the people in our lives who’ve been a significant influence.
This week we’re saying goodbye to Grandma Tobin, (Violet Agnes Tobin) aged 95, wife of 71 years to Grandad who’s pictured in last week’s blog...
When I interviewed my Mum’s parents for White Magazine in 2011, Grandma told me a story that stuck with me. It’s a powerful example of who she was, and her inclusive, loving attitude towards people, even strangers and people rejected by others.
In 1942, during WW2, Garnett Tobin, on a short leave from serving in Papua New Guinea, attended a dance, expecting to meet up with a girl who didn’t show up. Violet Philpott attended, expecting to meet a young man, who didn’t show up either, as he’d just enlisted for the war and was sent to Dubbo for training. Grandma shared with me a moment that I don’t think she really saw the significance of. I didn’t see it until today, when I was reading the article I’d written in 2011.
I read aloud to a visiting nurse today from the article –
Garnett and Violet shared a few dances… when she “first experienced real racism”… she told me that “a young man of African descent in the American Army asked girls to dance with him and they all refused. I was disgusted with them. I stood up with him and we danced, and he bowed politely after our dance.” Garnet added “All the Aussie boys clapped and commended her. I was so proud of her.”
As I read this today, Grandad spoke up. “And if she didn’t dance with him I wouldn’t have danced with her again!”
Wow. He was drawn to her even more when she took a stand against the racism that was “so normal” back then. If she hadn’t made that decision, their relationship would not have developed, my Mum, her brothers would not have existed. And then 17 grand-children (of which I’m the third) and 21 great-grand-children wouldn’t exist either!
I commented in DO Talk to Strangers that I have a rich history of connectors in my parents and all four of my grandparents, and I featured Grandad Tobin more as I’d taken him to Kokoda recently, but this story is quite incredible, and to Grandma it would have simply been the right thing to do, and she’d be happy to. Grandma has always been known for her happy disposition, and although she’s known some awful grief in her life, her recent reflections have been “I have had such a wonderful life. The Lord has been so good to me. I have such a wonderful family…”
A life well lived.
A family so grateful.
Someone said to me last week “All the best people are almost gone. There’s no good people like that left anymore.” I know it was a compliment to my grandparents and their peers, but I know that we can be just as kind and generous and welcoming as our elders have demostrated. They’ve truly left a legacy and we can choose everyday to consider others and choose to love and serve.
Who inspires you?
Cheering you on,