Friday, 20 December 2013

A passion to make a difference

Last Saturday was Stuart's birthday so I surprised him with flights to Hobart for a weekend in Tassie. We've both been burning the candle at both ends lately and it was great to get away for a bit of R & R.

I know Stu works pretty hard and he has a lot of projects on outside of his day job. As for me, I'm up to my neck in editors, publicists and publishers as we work to a tight schedule to get Inviolate, the sequel to Torn, ready for release early next year.

So, down to Tassie we trot OMG was it cold! I mean, we haven't had the warmest start to summer in Melbourne but this was ridiculous. At one stage I was wearing a thermal top and a coat!

Alright, rant over! I like Tassie and honestly, if it wasn't for the freakin' temperature I could live there. We stayed in Hobart CBD, a short walk from the Salamanca markets, restaurants and bars.

As we arrived late Friday arvo we decided to go down to the waterfront and have a look around - it's been a few years since we'd been there. One of the things I like about Tassie is its unpretentious respect for its history.

Nothing much changes here; old buildings are preserved with dignity and their convict past is acknowledged in a brief, respectful nod. Quite unlike one of our other convict-built cities whose heritage is buried in a sea of pretension and sequins.

Digressing - a habit of mine - what I really want to tell you about is what we encountered. Down at the waterfront, the boats were rocking on their moorings, the ferries chugging in and out and sleek seagulls were soliciting hot chips. One of the first sights we saw was the Sea Shepherd, returned from its latest voyage into icy southern waters, and preparing its next.

Much smaller than I expected, this brave little ship with its fierce, snarly smile painted on its prow, was sitting calmly and quietly in the last of the afternoon sunlight.

We wandered over to where a couple of crew members stood answering questions from passers-by.

Naturally, we stopped to chat and threw a handful of gold coins into their donation tin. They told us about the lack of assistance they get from governments - not just the Australian government, but governments in general.

One point they made that surprised me was that the Chilean government, unlike many others who claim to support their cause but do nothing, actually did something.

They told us how once when the Japanese whalers rounded the horn at the base of Chile, the Chilean maritime authorities sent an official message to the Japanese saying, "You're carrying whaling equipment and whale meat, that's illegal!"

Even better, they then went on to refuse the whalers passage past that point. Bummer - the whaling research expedition had to be cancelled. Way to go Chileans!

As we walked away from the Sea Shepherd, I commented to Stu that the crew all seemed to be very young but, how very brave they must be, I mean, we've all seen the T.V. footage of them being attacked and so on.

Stu agreed, saying that young as they were, these people were actually making a difference.

He went on to ask me, "How many people do you know, working nine to five, just going through the motions and making no difference to the world?"

I thought about that and realised that most of the people I know are probably like that - I'm one of them. Oh I can delude myself and say, hey I'm a writer, I make a difference to people's lives by entertaining them, providing brief snatches of escapism from their day-to-day existence.

That may or may not be true, but it doesn't really mean I'm making a difference.

There's an Aussie guy, from Mornington, I've heard about called Damien Mander. He's currently living in South Africa and really making a difference. A former Australian Royal Navy Clearance Diver and Special Operations military sniper, he pretty much sold everything he had to start up and run the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF).

In a world where the word 'hero' is thrown about with vulgar abandon, this guy is the real deal. Talk about making a difference! Compare that with what I do and I don't even come close.

I'm a big supporter of animal welfare, and I really do put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, because I don't have the guts to get out and physically do what these people do.

There's no way I could sail a little ship right up along side those massive murderous Japanese vessels.

Nor could I stand between an endangered animal and some wild-eyed poacher with a high-powered gun and a fortune at stake.

Feeling humbled, we popped into Irish Murphy's - an Irish pub with more character than most Irish pubs outside of the Emerald Isle. The last time we visited Irish Murphy's we enjoyed a fantastic meal and terrific service.

Years later, the staff are different, the menu's changed but the service and quality are just as we remembered. Tired, stressed from work, and more than a little bit emotional from our chat with the crew from the Sea Shepherd, an unpleasant experience at that moment would have inflamed my Mediterranean temper like kero tossed on fire.

So I guess in their comparatively smaller way, the staff at Irish Murphy's made a difference to our afternoon.

One of my favourite charities is Wildlife Victoria. Whether it's behind-the-scenes operations or frontline rescue and rehabilitation of our wildlife, the people of this association are making a difference.

But you must be passionate because these causes come with their share of heartbreaks. Passion, coupled with dogged determination to make a difference must be the key criteria.

Is there a point to all this, I hear you ask...I don't know. Perhaps with Christmas approaching, I think about my parents, both of whom I've lost which makes me consider how fleeting our time is here.

But even so, if you're passionate about something, it is possible to enhance someone's day, save a life, or change the world.

Maybe in my own small way I really am making a difference - even if it's just enabling people to sit down with a cuppa and one of my books and escape from their daily worries, just for a short time.

Maybe, maybe not, but I do know that there are genuinely selfless people out there, risking their lives to make a difference.

We went back to the Sea Shepherd on Sunday for a free tour around the ship and I was surprised by how hard these people work to maintain the ship and the conditions in which they live. It's not the holiday resort many might think.

To the crew of the Sea Shepherd, there is a special place reserved for you in heaven!

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