Companionship in compassion

I’ve been thinking a lot lately – and I think about it a lot in general – about what exactly it is that the Aunties do. And what I do. Not the logistics or the practical everyday stuff, but the exact nature of the spirit of it. What helping is, and is that what we do? Do we make change? What exactly is it that we’re doing here? Lots of words are chucked around – helping, fixing, changemakers……

I guess a lot of people would look at what the Aunties do as helping people. I don’t like that thought. I know that’s odd, but bear with. I’m not really about helping people – you, as an Aunty, might be. That’s your motivation. I know a lot of Aunties like being involved at something at a grassroots level – knowing they’re helping people. That’s a really good motivation.

But it doesn’t really explain the why fully. So you like helping people, and you are. That’s your start. You’re helping me, you’re helping the women, you’re helping the refuges, you’re helping the people who I work with, basically, aren’t you? And that makes you feel good. Because we increasingly live in a world where giving and being a good person isn’t much talked about. Where community is a forgotten concept until a disaster or tragedy occurs.

And we’ve built this community, you and I, haven’t we? The Aunties is a community of people who are ostensibly helping other people. Giving stuff that they need, giving money so I can get them stuff they need, or so that they can pay to get the stuff they need.

You may be doing this because you like the feeling you get when you know you’ve done something good. That’s okay. You may do it because you’ve been there, and you know what it looks like to not have enough of anything. Whatever your motivation, it’s all good with me. Because that’s YOUR motivation and I don’t get to question it. It belongs to you. It’s up to you to examine what your why is.

Are we making change? Here’s my thing. We may be making changes in our own lives, I know I certainly have. Being Aunty In Charge has changed my entire life in almost every aspect of it. But are we changing other people’s lives? I don’t think so. I think what we do is give people stuff/pay bills etc to give them joy, dignity, ease, so that they can focus on the changes they want/need to happen. What we do doesn’t change their lives at all. For many of them, if the kids have enough clothes/shoes or if they get a bill paid, it’s one thing less they have to worry about. For many of them, the stuff represents love. That people care about them. All that love and care is building blocks to reinforce the confidence and the self worth they have lost along life’s way. So no, we aren’t changing lives. What you gain by being an Aunty is important to me – and I’ve heard from many of you what you do gain. And the impact of being an Aunty on you may be large or just very tiny. Either way it’s okay. We are all enabling each other. Enabling. There’s a great word. Maybe we’re enablers? Is that it?

Aunties, in the Oxford Dictionary, are simply described as, apart from the female sibling of a parent, an unrelated adult female friend, especially of a child.

The synonyms are: companion, duenna, protectress, escort, governess, nursemaid, carer, keeper, protector, bodyguard, minder.

Given that these are adult women we’re working with, they don’t need nursemaids. And governess is a really old term that’s not appropriate either. Bodyguard, protector, minder, keeper? Well sometimes, but very rarely. Mostly we are companions, and duenna and unrelated friends. I think those are words I relate to most. Those three words very accurately describe a lot of what I personally do, and what I have become, and you? You help me to do those things.  And you do those things too. By giving of yourselves, you become friends and companions to women you will never meet.

I like standing alongside people. That’s my gig. I like holding people’s hands if that’s what they want, holding them tightly if that’s what they need, or just being there silently (or not so silently) cheering them on. And they do that for me. It’s incredibly selfish, this selflessness. And I’m okay with that. I hope you are too. Because we are all in this together. Companions.

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