My girls are early adopters. At 5 and 9 years of age, they bond fast, they bond hard, and they bond for life. Repeatedly. Over the last few weeks they have adopted my friends Heather and Sylvia. They have re-adopted my friends Michael, Chelsea and Rachael, and they have vigorously adopted my husband’s friend and colleague, Sorrell, together with his partner, Lynn.
Their hearts are wide open and all-encompassing. There is room in there for the whole world.
Sometimes it’s a tough road for them, when the bond is not reciprocated. Z yearned for her best friend from kinder years after said friend had moved on. JB is still planning to marry her kinder sweetheart, even after 12 months at a different school, and she still worships her kinder teacher, even while she adores her prep teacher with every fibre of her being. She is fully prepared to offer her next teacher her undying devotion, despite not having met her yet.
A year ago they met my friend Rachael, who threw herself wholeheartedly into water fights and games on their level, so that when she visited a week ago, after meeting her just the once and 12 whole months ago, they could not wait to see her again. Now they are badgering us to visit her in Brisbane. Right after we visit their beloved adopted grandparents in Tasmania, their cousin and his girlfriend in Perth, and everyone else they have ever known and loved in the meantime. They have to visit them all NOW!
It’s hard when you’re always afraid
You just recover when another belief is betrayed
So break my heart if you must
It’s a matter of trust
You can’t go the distance
With too much resistance
I know you have doubts
But for God’s sake don’t shut me out
Billy Joel, A Matter of Trust
You could be forgiven, reading newspapers, watching TV or just reading status updates on Facebook and Twitter, for thinking that the world is a dark and dangerous place where you must guard your heart, your family and your wallet. There are hoaxes flying around the world warning about hypodermic syringes on petrol pumps, deadly rat-borne viruses on cans of drink, and tracking devices on your car. We are building to a fever pitch of paranoia that threatens to break down the very fabric of our communities. That old saying “there are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met” takes on a very hollow ring. The overwhelming message is: Trust no-one. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t make eye contact.
Years ago I used to walk to kinder with my eldest daughter on her bike. There were few people out and about on the footpaths, but those few that did walk tended to walk often, and we got to know the locals – especially those with dogs. One day one of them knocked on my door and said “Do you have a wood fire?”
I hesitated to answer, afraid that he was going to complain about smoke, but it turned out he had just cut a tree down and wanted to know if we wanted the wood. Later we took him some cookies as a thank you. In the years since then we have built a firm friendship with him and his family. A friendship which never would have existed had I stuck to the “don’t talk to strangers” rule.
Now that I am running regularly, I see many of the same faces out and about. We are beginning to recognise each other and share a brief moment of humanity in passing. Who knows which of these faces will become friends given time. Many would tell me I should guard against them. I have often been told I am too open. Too trusting. Too gullible.
And, of course, I have been burnt just like my girls by friendships that weren’t reciprocated, or that ended badly. But I share with them the faith that there are strangers here, and many of them are indeed friends we haven’t met yet. I will no doubt get burnt again, as will my girls, but in the meantime we will love and be loved with everything we have. We are early adopters, and it’s worth the risk.