Today is my birthday. Sunday the 29th of March 2020.
The world has changed hasn’t it? So let’s make a change to the way birthdays work. Today I’d like to give you a present where I read you my favourite picture story book. It’s about treasured memories. And if you have little kids in your home, there is an activity on the screen at the end for you all to share your ‘treasures’. I reckon the activity works too for people who consider themselves kids at heart.
Getting permission is important. See one of my hero’s, Seth Godin’s most recent daily blogpost here. It is a timely protocol for how we interact as we all are skilling up on video tech and other forms of remote communication in a time of physical distancing. Seth is big on permission.
So who did I get permission from before posting this?
Thanks to Mem Fox, via her publicist Jenny, saying she was happy for the world to see my scratchy PowerPoint of Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. My second last interaction with Mem was on Richelle Hunt’s Afternoons program on ABC Melbourne radio late last year. I sent in a text to the program and Richelle read it out on air.
Mem, Every time I read Wilfred (sic) Gordon McDonald Partridge, a tear comes to my eye when Miss Nancy remembers the brother who went to war and never came back. Thank you. Bill from West Preston.
The video above is evidence that that SMS is technically incorrect. I made it past the war medals this time. It wasn’t until the last page in this reading that I started to well up with tears.
Mem responded to the SMS on air and I learnt the story behind the story. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partidge was Mem’s father’s name. Mem finished the interview by reading her latest book, Tiny Star, out loud to Richelle and all her listeners.
Polly Flanagan and her daughter Brigid
Polly Flanagan has been a true champion for us at Time & Space over the last three weeks. My grammar shifts from past to present to future tense all in the one sentence. Polly is an excellent, incisive writer. Polly must have been an amazing English teacher. She is also a recently retired Principal. She helped us craft some email messages to the Principals, Heads and senior leaders in our partner schools. She edited my verbosity and typographical errors.
Our last traditional Time & Space event was on Thursday 12th March – delivered by one of our Melbourne based facilitators. I was in Adelaide at the time and facilitated my last ‘in a school’ event on the Wednesday night. It really was on that Friday the 13th of March that everything started to change. I was at the last ‘in-person’ conference I will be at for a while. I stayed on in Adelaide to join my colleagues from Professional Speakers Australia at our annual convention. One colleague had 30 speaking engagements cancelled within an hour.
Our schools were contacting us as well. Polly helped us with an email that went out to all of our schools scheduled with upcoming events. We asked for them to postpone and not cancel. Many of our partner schools said they would reschedule their Time & Space event. This week Polly helped us with another email. This time we let our schools know that we had created a new program Time & Space at Home. We have now facilitated two events on the Zoom video platform. This past Tuesday some Year 7 girls and their mums (from OLMC in Heidelberg) met in virtual breakout rooms and shared their treasures, which is a feature of every Time & Space event. We had a plenary discussion at the end and one mum said that she loved the fact that she had shared some positive screen time with her daughter. Until then, she had only associated screen time as a negative.
Polly helped us with the email from Launceston. Tasmania’s borders are shut. Her daughter Brigid is in Melbourne and has just had surgery. Brigid is home recovering and this video was the best way I could say ‘thank you’ to Polly and to give Brigid’s three daughters an activity to do at home with their dad, Joe. Annie, Mary and Bridie – it would be great to hear what treasures you choose to share with your dad and your mum when she feels better.
Polly and Brigid are mentioned in my dedication on screen. I got their permission to publish the video mentioning their names. Apologies to Bridie for calling you ‘Heidi’ the second time round.
You Have Permission…
… to share this with someone you think might enjoy the story and the activity
To Our Partner Schools
Thanks to the many school communities who have rescheduled their events with us to the second half of this year.
Thanks to those who understand that we are running a business and have made some good will arrangements to help us keep afloat and to keep paying our staff.
I have spoken with many of our key school contacts, our Time & Space Champions, already on the phone. If I haven’t as yet, I will be in touch. We know we are only one of many considerations in your school calendar and we are so appreciative of the time you have given us to look at options. We know how hard you are all working to make school online work.
We are full of admiration at the generosity and imagination and leadership you are all showing. To ‘let the part tell the whole’ (thankyou Paul Kelly in his song Bradman), I am giving a shout out to Byron Chen from Salesian College in Chadstone. Byron is sharing some amazing things on LinkedIn and recommended this very useful book by my speaking colleagues Dr Jodi Richardson and Michael Grose. If you look through Byron’s recent posts you will also see that he his wife is a frontline healthworker and they have a little child under three. To me this amplifies the courage people like Byron are showing.
For the schools who have said they are cancelling all live events this year, please reconsider if one of your partners has a robust online solution. We reckon we have. A few years ago I read the biography of Robert Clifford, the man behind Incat the big Tasmanian boat building company. He learnt to sail at The Hutchins School (an 11 year partner of Time & Space) and so a lifelong love of sailing craft was born. I recall he said that when you are skipper of a yacht, the decision you make now will be different from the one you make in ten minutes time. This is because the current and the wind will have changed. Is that not a metaphor for the times? I suspect if this goes on for a while, there will be families in your schools who would relish the chance to participate in Time & Space at Home. We know you are busy. When you are ready, we are here for you.
A Couple of Organisations you can Support
Do you still have some money you can spend? You can buy Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge from a great bookstore like Readings . Have you noticed how tender the messages have been since Covid 19 overtook our world from organisations who send their regular newsletter to your inbox? I loved this message I got from Readings Managing Director Mark Rubbo on St Patrick’s Day.
I have started a video series, Sharing Treasures. Two episodes are ready to be posted this week. The second one is an interview with Father Bob Maguire. He shares his treasures as a son to his long departed mum and dad and as the spiritual father to the ‘unloved and the unlovely’ as he calls the homeless. Think about the activity we have set in the video. I am assuming that you have a home to find treasures in. Some people don’t. Father Bob is still helping the vulnerable as he always does. If you have a few bob to send to Bob you can do that here.
A 1-to-1 Conversation you can have with your young person (or your mum/dad/mentor)…
… is at the end of the previous blog post to this one. There are three questions you can ask each other in turn. One of the questions is about how each of you are feeling in these uncertain times.
Happy Birthday to…
… Dawn in Bellerive in Hobart. Cheers to Steve and Fletcher and Mackenzie.
… Byron Chen’s mum! I just rang Byron to get his permission and he had just dropped off a present to his mum’s front door.
Feel free to write about your treasures in the comments box below. If you wanted to share a photo of your treasures, put my Twitter handle @Bill_Jennings in a Tweet and include the hashtag #SharingTreasures.
I know this has been a long post but we probably have a bit more time on our hands (well some of us) these days. Polly, sorry about the incorrect grammar!
Thanks for reading. I hope you stay well, you and yours. If you are unwell reading this, I hope Wilfrid Gordon makes you smile or cry, in a good way. Keep the physical distancing up. N.B. I was just on the phone to Dawn to say Happy Birthday and then spoke to her husband Steve. He asked, “Why are we calling it ‘social distancing’?” Steve’s point is that, as human beings, we may never have been socially closer.
Keep enjoying the amazing new ways we are learning to connect. Enjoy your reverse birthday present.
See you soon, Bill.