By HEIDI RUCKRIEGEL
The tale I’m about to tell you, dear reader, is a true story.
It happened some time ago but I have never forgotten it and every now and then it returns to both gladden my heart and trouble me deeply. I can’t quite work out what to make of it and what lesson we should learn from it. Perhaps you can help me.
When my children were small I took them to a playgroup, where the mums would chat while helping the little ones play or craft things out of popsicle sticks, paper plates and glue. Many of the mums also had older kids and would talk of their latest adventures at school.
One had a daughter, Emma, in grade 1 at a local suburban primary school. The previous week, Emma had come home from school very excited. There was a new girl in her class. Her name was Sarah, and she was already one of Emma’s ‘very best friends’. Emma wanted to invite her to her birthday party that weekend. She had already handed out invitations a few days before, but she pleaded with her Mum that she just ’had to have’ Sarah at the party, too.
Emma’s mum was quite happy to have another little person at the party and was intrigued about the new girl. Tell me about Sarah; she said to Emma. Sarah loves puzzles, she’s good at drawing, she loves the sandpit, swings and slide. No surprises there! She comes from ‘somewhere else’. Here in Tasmania that would usually mean anything from the next suburb to – gasp! – the Mainland (i.e. the rest of Australia).
Hoping to catch a glimpse of Sarah at that afternoon’s school pick-up, Mum asks what she looks like. Oh, taller than me, Mum! And… ummmm… I don’t know… oh yes! She always has two red ribbons in her hair! Can I have red ribbons, too, Mum? Please? Plleeeaaasssee???
That afternoon, as Emma’s mum picked her up from school, she looked around the milling crowd of excited little kids, eagerly showing off their latest writing. Yep, there was a little girl, taller than the rest, with unmistakeable bright red ribbons in her hair. She was also the first African refugee student at the school, where nearly every other family hailed from the U.K. (probably mostly as colonial-era convicts), a few from the rest of Europe and a sprinkling from Asia.