Button Boy

A child working at a sewing machine making seats for cars and vans. Photo by Zoriah.

Child labour. Photo by Zoriah

Students come and go, but some of them leave a mark on you. As my last day of teaching in an organisation draws near, I think back and remember.

I remember the young man, the son of very highly educated parents, who wanted to be an engineer but couldn’t add comfortably beyond 100 because he spent his growing years sewing buttons in a refugee camp instead of going to school. He made me think of the cost of displacement.

I remember the young woman who couldn’t concentrate in class because she was worried sick about her mother who was stuck in a refugee camp halfway around the world. She made me think of the hope of reconciliation.

‘The cost of displacement and the hope of reconciliation’ were the seed ideas for ‘Place of Refuge’, a collection of creative non-fiction stories of those who have found a place of refuge in Adelaide over the past 40 years (1975 – 2015).

It is in order to interview and write the stories of those who have found, or are trying to find, a place of refuge in Adelaide, that’s why I’m saying goodbye to my class very soon.

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2 thoughts on “Button Boy

  1. An interesting read, it would appear that teaching children really opens the mind to the world beyond…
    However, I’m curious of the concept of a consciously making a decision to change; to leave a comfort zone behind.

    What is it that drives a spirit to search for meaning here as you have?

    What compels changes to lifestyle of such magnitude?

    An epiphany of sorts? A longing to belong?

    Like

    • About two years ago, I was meditating on my Bible reading for the day and thinking about the two adult students mentioned above (I taught adults, people in their 20s to 60s, and they sometimes told me about their childhood, such as the boy I mentioned above), when the phrase ‘the cost of displacement and the hope of reconciliation’ came to me. I did not come up with it by my own cleverness. ‘What drives a spirit to search for meaning?’ For me, it was the Holy Spirit of God, who took the Word of God, and gave me something to think about.

      I subsequently found that this theme resonated with many people. I was finishing my dad’s memoirs at the time, free-lance writing on a regular basis and ready for a new writing project. So I decided to begin recording the stories of refugees who wanted to tell their story. The form and structure of a possible book began to take shape. Doors to people began to open, doors that I could not have opened myself.

      When I realised that in 2015/16 would mark 40 years of the refugee resettlement since Vietnam, I thought it was a significant enough milestone to serve as the basis of a book. Knowing that I could not finish the book within this one or two years if I continued teaching part-time, I decided to leave teaching in order to concentrate on writing.

      In answer to your question, I have not been driven by a desire to belong, I did not have an epiphany in the sense of one big life-changing revelation, but rather I have been walking step by step, trying to understand what is on my Heavenly Father’s heart and trying to be obedient to what I hear Him say.

      “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
      Micah Chapter 6, verse 8, The Bible

      Liked by 1 person

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