Month: July 2015

Checking In

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IMG_4100It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I last posted. I didn’t check, but maybe it was back in February when I last posted. That’s a while between then and now. But since then, I have been thinking a lot about you, our supporters, and also our mission here which is to ask a question: “how might we use our networks to deliver on the promise to improve child survival?”

And it’s also been a while since I first put this idea out there on this website back in 2010. I remember that day well. It was in August, and my friend Kelley was visiting from the US. She patiently sat and listened while I explained my doubts, and after I had finished talking she told me bluntly in her best Bostonian-New York style to just do it already.

Many of you will know how the journey has progressed. I commenced a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries last September in Port Moresby and then finished the running in New York in early January this year on a cold, dark and wet night. That stunt frames the question we are going to be asking in order to help improve child survival through a series of Design Forum.

There are still a lot of uncertainties as to how the future will play out, but we are forming a good foundation to engage on this question. The hard work comes now: it is ahead of us, and I want you to be part of that journey. How that will play itself out, as well as an explanation for my recent delay, will follow in the coming days and weeks, but for now I have posted a video to check in with our supporters and let you know we are still well and truly in the game.

The video was in Luoyang, Henan Province in China. I refreshed while away, and am coming back stronger. Thanks for being part of the team. Let’s get to work.

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We Are The Dead

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Major John McCrae’s poem has immortalised the symbolism of the poppy in Western culture. The words are haunting:

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

He writes about those taken too early. But it is the legacy someone leaves that is what matters. This too is contained in the final stanza of this poem, paraphrased here on the anniversary of the MH17 tragedy, one year on:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though sunflowers grow
In Ukrainian fields.

I have been absent from this blog for a few months. I’ll explain that later. But for now, let’s take stock of why it is important to press forward, as if our duty is to take up that unfinished quarrel with the foe. Nick Norris was passionate about thinking differently, and applying systems-changing thinking to co-create a better world. At the time of his death, while I was motivated to embolden my commitment to the 10 City Bridge Run journey as a tribute to his influence, I also at the same time felt constrained to do so because of the very public nature of the incident and media profile given to seeking stories about the family.

I look back now and can understand my actions. I think I did the right thing, but now it is also time for action, and now it is perhaps the right time to honour his legacy as an influence in this journey. And as I write that, my thoughts can’t be too far removed from my brother, especially as no one could have known at the time that on this anniversary this year it would be more poignant for our family to remember.

I’m back into it, and taking their legacy forward as a driving influence. I’ll tidy up this site and write more about that in the days that follow. For now, suffice to say that the torch has been caught and held aloft.

Do You Remember?

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Nick Norris. A great family man and inspiring leader.
Nick Norris. A great family man and inspiring leader.

Think back to that time. That special time that only you can remember. Focus a little closer. Can you see it now? Do you remember?

Sometimes, it would seem that all we have left are delicate memories, maybe corroded by time. They remain in your head. You can write about them, but they can’t be seen by another because they are your memories.

What was it that you remember the most? A smell, the fragrance of flowers or the distinctive aroma of coffee; maybe it was hot and humid and you can remember the sweat pressing against your shirt; and maybe also the sounds, the mumble of crowds disturbing the moment in the background, the sound of the person in your memories; can you remember the colours as if it was yesterday, see the face of the person at the centre of the memories, their smile and their laugh. Do you remember?

It was with some mild anxiety that I searched for a video I made at Kuala Lumpur airport in early October last year. I had just completed the third leg of the 10 City Bridge Run and was headed to Osaka. I travelled to KL by bus from Singapore because it was cheaper, and even though the flights were inexpensive, the reality was that I almost has no money to even buy food.

Sitting in the departure lounge in Kuala Lumpur, I remembered Nick Norris, my uncle who was tragically killed about MH17 a year ago today along with three of his grandchildren. Kuala Lumpur was his destination on that fateful flight which never arrived. Wreckage and debris scattered across a previously unknown Ukrainian field, with no special respect given for human life.

So why this post? It is my first post after being absent from this site for a few months, but I will write about that later. Today, is a tribute to Nick Norris, and my brother Stephen. Stephen attended the memorial service for Nick’s three grandchildren in Perth with my mother last year. For my mother, that will have been a bittersweet memory, as in December my brother would also die.

When I was in the Army, I was deployed on a tour of Rifle Company Butterworth, located close to Penang. We trained across Malaysia and Singapore, engaging in some excellent jungle warfare and urban terrain exercises. My credit card was scammed while I was in Malaysia, and my brother showed his true generous spirit to always nurture others by covering the debt until the bank could reaccredit my account after the fraud had occurred. Nick would have leant back in his chair and laughed approvingly with his infectious roar if I ever told him the story, and would have been entirely pleased to see my brother and I helping each other out.

Almost everyone remembers the MH17 incident. It was a tragic incident that took on national significance, and even forced the outcome of negotiations at the United Nations. Before that, most people didn’t know where the Ukraine was, or that there was a conflict with Russia. It even led to Tony Abbott promising to shirt-front Putin at the G20 last year. Serious stuff. And today, a memorial service in excellent taste in Canberra. A fitting tribute. Love conquers hate. Do you remember?

I wanted to upload this video of the reflection I made in the departure lounge of Kuala Lumpur airport last October for you all here tonight, but when I searched my external hard-drive, it seems it is the one file that for some reason had not been properly transferred. I can’t find it. It was slightly distressing, and caused me some minor anxiety. I felt like I had betrayed my memories of Nick. I had cheated myself of a public expression of the tribute I thought was so important to make. And I thought how stupid was I not to post it there and then back in October.

But I also came to realise that it didn’t actually matter. Who is going to see it or even read these words? Crafting a message-in-a-bottle to be thrown into the amorphous mass of the interwebs. I stopped and thought: what really matters here? Did I remember? How would I remember? Those are personal memories I have of Nick and my brother. We weren’t always that close, but we were family. I can’t show you that on a video.

Remembering those we care for ought not to be reduced to an exercise of humblebrag. Tributes and legacy are incredibly important, and it is we who give them meaning, even if that meaning is only an individual experience.

So tonight, I’m asking you to just stop and remember for a minute. Everyone has a story, even though it might not be shared. Treasure yours, and respect the other.