Goodbye Mr Noble

The funeral was yesterday. It was a great send off. The husband of the eldest child did the eulogy and spoke eloquently of Lionel’s great character and personality, and his abiding love for his wife and family. The youngest son spoke about the things that made Lionel a great dad. The eldest grand-daughter spoke of Lionel, the grandpa, who made the kids laugh, spoilt them rotten and loved them to bits. The eldest great grand-daughter spoke simply of her funny popsie, who made them laugh and who loved trains. She finished simply with, “He was a great man.” He certainly was. Admittedly, he wasn’t ‘great’ as the world defines it. He wasn’t wealthy. He didn’t have any power. He didn’t live his life in the glare of the media. He didn’t tweet inanities into the cosmos in an attempt to gain ‘followers’. He did have a webpage but it was devoted to his love of trains. Thousands of train enthusiasts from all over the world loved that page. My husband will continue to maintain it, in his honour. So, how was he ‘great’? I could talk of his role as amateur historian for the township of Peterborough. (I only use ‘amateur’ in the sense that he wasn’t paid.) The town’s historical society have dedicated a whole room to the Lionel Noble collection. I could talk of his vast knowledge of trains and how they worked, but the Railway History group can do that better than me. I could speak of his skill as a pigeon racer, or as a wonderful singer, or as a Sunday school teacher, or even his ability to speak ‘cow’. (He’d bellow and every single time the cows would come running. He once led a herd of cows through a country town, simply by mooing every now and then.) I believe that what made him great was his love and compassion for other people. He made every one he met feel special and appreciated. He took the time to remain in contact with people for years and years. He’d faithfully write hundreds of letters – and in the latter years of his life, emails – every week to his family, his past workmates, the wives of deceased workmates, and even people in foreign countries who were trying to improve their English. He was humble to the point of almost being paranoid about getting any attention. He was generous but he preferred that no one knew about it. He loved life and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even in his last days, he was quick to smile. He had a great sense of fun, loved a good joke and delighted in making his family and friends, laugh. He spread peace and love into the world. Noble in name and noble in character. I’m privileged to have known him. I’m sorry he’s gone but I live with the hope that I’ll see him again. He was a great...

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Have a heart…

I can’t stop thinking about the poor refugees streaming out of the Middle East and Africa, determined to save their lives and the lives of their families. I see photo after photo of crying children, frightened mothers and desperate fathers. I see the incredible risks they take to reach safety. And, I see so many people respond to their plight with cruelty, racism, anger that is driven by fear and an extraordinary degree of callousness. The over-riding sentiment seems to be: They should die in their own country. What has happened to our world? If there weren’t countries like Germany stepping up to the mark, I would completely despair. My own country, which has always been known as the land of the “fair go”, which has always been known for its friendliness and compassion for the underdog, is treating refugees like terrorists, shutting them up in tent cities on tiny, poor islands. My government turns a blind eye to the abuse of women and children in these places and has legislated that anyone working in these camps must also turn a blind eye. I cannot believe we have come to this. We punish the victims, not the perpetrators. When there was a mass exodus from Vietnam after the end of that war, Australia welcomed Vietnamese refugees with compassion and generosity. They are now valued members of our society. So, what has changed since then? I believe the turning point was 9/11. When the radicals attacked the world trade centre and the pentagon that day, they set off a ripple effect. Fear, mistrust, suspicion of non-white, Muslim, foreign, different people rippled out from the epicentre of the fallen towers, and swept out over the rest of the world. Suddenly the language changed. Refugees became “illegal migrants” or “queue jumpers” and a matter of “border security”. Instead of our navy saving lives at sea their job, now, is to turn boats back to Indonesia rather than to help. In a sense, the world has cancer, caused by fear. Just like the rogue cells in my body, the world is turning on itself. We can only counteract this paranoid, callous attitude with changed hearts and minds that remind us we are all pilgrims on this earth. We are all human beings. We all (or most of us) want to live peacefully, happily with our families. We’ve got to stop believing the hyperbole of politicians and the more excitable members of the media, who are on the look-out for the next sensational story, and put our brains into gear once more. We need to help the refugees reach safety, instead of shoving them back towards the terror they’ve been fleeing. We need to find a way to bring peace to their homelands. At the moment, the real terrorists are rubbing their hands with glee. We can’t let the bullies...

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