I have more time to think these days, especially since my to-do list is in retreat. So, when I heard Irish poet and theologian Padraig O’Tuama speaking about trust in a podcast interview [i] I grabbed my pen and notebook.
‘You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore.’
Padraig was explaining that this is the way trust is understood in the Irish language.
Still absorbing the beauty and simplicity of Padraig’s words, I’ve been thinking about trust in interpersonal relationships. Who do I trust, in this way? Who do you trust? Is trust something more than dependability, or reliability? Do we need to trust someone first, to find out if they are worthy?
I’ve been waiting, too, for something with which to connect the idea of trust. Over the past week I’ve been reading Quarterly Essay 90 by Professor Megan Davis – ‘Voice of Reason: On Recognition and Renewal’. Her writing, at once both reasoned and passionate, sent me to Australian Story on ABC iView to learn more of her early life and what drives this remarkable woman. Megan Davis is familiar to us today for laying the groundwork for and helping to bring into being, the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Megan mentions in the Essay that in 2016, she had been asked by the NSW government to conduct a review of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, in other words, child removals. Her team uncovered shocking, unforgivable systemic failures.
But she told Australian Story that the reviewers also learned that if a child had just one adult in their life, loving them unconditionally, they would make it. Someone, she said, who cared enough to want to know where the child was. To this, may I respectfully add – Someone whom the child trusts, absolutely.
There it is – the person, the place where I stand when my feet are sore. Sore, from walking too far, too fast, without good maps or shoes for the journey, perhaps in a direction that proves misguided. The person who helps us find ourselves again when we’ve become lost.
I’ve heard dictionaries described as ‘a long poem about everything’. The Merriam-Webster one describes trust as ‘the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.’ So much is packed into that single sentence; every word works hard.
It’s a high bar to reach, isn’t it?
But if Megan is right, we only need one person in our life to reach that bar. She is fortunate to have a vibrant, close extended family. But hearing her story, one person towers above everyone else. That person for Megan and her siblings, is their mother. Dawn Davis gave up her teaching career to raise five children as a single parent in a Queensland housing commission home.
In Australian Story, we see Dawn ageing now, seemingly confined to a chair. But on every shelf and surface of her home, embracing and protecting her, are books. Whatever the outcome of Australia’s referendum on The Voice, she’s handing on a generational legacy of far greater moment than her worldly resources would ever imply.
For her daughter and constitutional law expert Megan, Dawn was no doubt ‘a place to stand’ when her feet were sore. In Dawn, here is another exceptional woman.
Worth a mention
These chilly mornings, I’ve been sharing my first cup of tea with Australian poet Robert Gray. I stumbled across Daylight Saving, the first in a series that introduces contemporary Australian poets to American readers. Every poem ‘returns us to our senses’ with ‘the simplicity of daily speech’; every morning Robert Gray gifts one of his brilliant images to accompany me through my day.
[i] I’ve been unable to find the original podcast I listened to. However, if you’d like to know more about Padraig O’Tuama, there is an excellent archived interview ‘Pain is a Poem’ with Rachael Kohn on RN’s The Spirit of Things here.