By Bishop Michael Morrissey
On the road from Northampton to Kalbarri, there is a tree painted blue.
I always notice this tree when driving to Kalbarri capturing my attention and thoughts. Where did the idea come from?
In 2014, Jayden White painted a dead tree blue on the family farm at Mukinbudin.
One day his father spotted the painted tree and remembered when tragically his son, Jayden, took his own life in 2018.
Two of Jayden’s friends wanted to honour their friend and make sure he was not forgotten, so they did what Jayden had done in 2014 and painted a dead tree blue. They then placed what they did and the reasons why on social media.
This simple decision, stemming from their hearts and care for Jayden, called on the community to focus on the mental and spiritual wellbeing of everyone and to leave no one alone in their concerns and sadness of spirit.
The blue trees that have sprung up all around the place are a powerful reminder to us to take care of ourselves and look out for each other.
Another simple and yet powerful message, ‘R U OK?’ grew out of another young man, Gavin Larkin’s, desire in 2009 to honour his late Father, Barry, who took his own life in 1996.
‘R U OK?’ has become familiar to everyone and is a question we have taken more seriously this year, given the way our lives have been affected so much by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In the past, when people were asked ‘R U OK?’ by a friend or family member, the response was often flippant and given without much thought. This year, I would suggest, the question has been asked with much more feeling and concern, a sign people do care for each other when all that was familiar to us has changed so much.
As we journey towards Christmas 2020, many people will not be able to follow their usual plans for Christmas. These plans might have included gathering with family and friends or travelling overseas to their home country. The question, ‘R U OK?’ takes on a deeper meaning as what we have liked to do every Christmas cannot happen, causing sadness and loneliness in people’s lives.
In his letter, Laudato Si, “Care for our Common Home”, Pope Francis calls on everyone to create a “culture of care”. A blue tree and a catchy slogan ‘R U OK?’ are great examples of a culture that recognises how vital it is for all of us to care.
There now is a need more than ever for this culture of care for our family, friends and those who are alone or far from home due to travel restrictions, to come to the fore during these days and times of uncertainty. Human Beings, as with all of creation, are created for relationship with God and each other. One priceless gift we can give this Christmas is the giving of our time to be present and to listen to each other, making a call to connect with someone far away or simply asking the question, ‘R U OK?”.
As we know, Christmas commemorates and celebrates the birth of ‘Baby Jesus’ 2000 years ago in a Stable in Bethlehem. He was born in uncertain times, into a family far from home and away from all that was familiar. From the outset they had to rely on the care of others – an innkeeper, visiting shepherds and even angels and kings, – but their lives were far from easy. Yet this great Feast we celebrate is always about Hope, that great Christian virtue. We believe therefore, during the darkness and uncertainty of this pandemic, the words of the Prophet Isaiah offer a message of great hope. “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light, on those who live in a land of deep shadow, a light has shone” [Is 9:2]. Christ is the Light and our Hope. The Light he brings to our lives, we too can give to others, through our care.
I wish all of you and your families the blessings of all that comes to us from celebrating again the birth of this baby, Jesus Christ in Bethlehem who enters our world in all its present uncertainty giving hope and meaning in our lives.