Shear joy in Bombala on Australia Day
Dear Inner Circle,

The good people of Bombala hosted me for their Australia Day celebrations. Sydney’s Kings Cross to the little town of Bombala is quite a cultural contrast. I began my speech by saying, “I walked down your main street last night and I didn’t see a single strip club or massage parlour. What kind of town is this?” I met so many hard working, honest people who mostly reminded me of an Australia that has largely disappeared. The primary activity of the day was shearing sheep. They stopped for a brief speech from me and also from the local Mayor and then they returned to shearing sheep. The comedy act of the day was when they organised for me to shear a sheep. I didn’t want to hurt the poor animal that they shoved at my feet and so the job I made of shearing was just laughable. It’s an activity that is not kind on your back even to shear one sheep. How these folks are able to shear 200 and even 300 sheep a day is simply beyond my understanding. What an honour to speak with the locals and hear their concerns; to hear about the price of wool; the price of lambs; their vulnerability to weather; their understanding of the role of politicians; their fear about the threat of drugs to their young people. There were some clearly well-heeled people at the gathering and there were some young people whose fitness and strength left me in awe. There were many people who looked like they’d lived out in the weather for 40 years or who hadn’t removed their hats in that time. The main street literally had hundreds of 4x4 trucks and utilities and only one solitary small sedan. Even my car was something of a cultural shock to the street. I’m grateful to have met so many colourful characters and to have learned that should Wayside suddenly come to an end, that shearing is not a way that I might make an alternate living.

Chatting in the cafe yesterday, a homeless man insisted on buying me lunch. I tried to talk him into allowing me to buy lunch for him instead. He said, “Think of all the times you’ve helped me in the past month.” “You’re right,” I said, “I’ll have spaghetti and a can of drink.” There are many people in this world who have so little but give so much. One of this city's most notorious criminals wrote to me from prison this week. He earns $20 per week in prison. If I told you the crime he committed, you probably would read no further. He sent me $200 and asked me to, “Give it to someone in need.” What an astonishing act of generosity! You can’t hate a whole person. The only way you can hate someone is to take a picture and call it the whole movie.

Read more of my Inner Circle here.

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