It was a Thursday morning in Brisbane when Lucas and I were out on shift at Wickham Park. This inner-city park has a lot of significance for me; it’s where my Mum took me one morning when I was growing up to help volunteer – an experience that had a profound impact on my life. It’s also the place where we started Orange Sky alongside our high school food van.
Lucas and I were out on shift meeting with a mentor, who was giving us some feedback on our operations. It’s always a little bit uncomfortable for me dropping in on a shift; I feel like somewhat of an intruder on a special community, as volunteers and friends have such a meaningful connection (I’m also terrible at remembering names!).
I was standing at the back of the laundry van talking to two volunteers, Kathleen and Tammy, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman sit down on an orange chair. She was talking to herself and looked quite down. I tried to maintain conversation and engagement with the volunteers, but I couldn’t help but be distracted by this friend.
I have always found empty orange chairs to be a sign of loneliness, but also the potential for connection with another person. I felt nervous as I walked over and sat down on one of the vacant orange chairs. I introduced myself. I said, “Hi, my name is Nic, do you mind if I ask what your name is?” She said, “I am Dani, nice to meet you.”
I noticed a strong accent. I asked her what was on for the rest of the day and Dani told me she was going to yoga. She said she found yoga and meditating helpful for her, and that she was able to get free classes in exchange for helping out at the studio. I asked how she found out about the studio and she told me she got the confidence to go there after an Orange Sky volunteer, Claire, suggested it to her.
I was intrigued by Dani’s accent, which she said was from California. She told me that Australia is now home and that she has left that part of her life behind. I asked if she missed anything from home. She said not much. Coming to Orange Sky shifts and going to yoga made her feel great and she told me stories of how other volunteers listened to her and made her feel supported. She said that the volunteer, Claire, reminded her of her own Mum because she listened without judgement and was super caring and loving.
Dani didn’t need to say any more, I had goose bumps and tears in my eyes. I knew exactly what she was talking about, because I had felt that special connection in my own life. I had felt that exact same feeling, from that exact same person, because the woman she was talking about was my own Mum, Claire Marchesi.
We kept on talking for the rest of shift until Dani’s washing was done. I could have spoken to her for many more hours. I have not seen Dani since that day, but I often think about that conversation. Dani would have been a few years older than me. We both come from different parts of the world with different upbringings and perspective, however have both felt the same beautiful connection from the same beautiful person.
Human connection is special and complex, but it often stems from the simplest things. In this case, it all started from a simple conversation on an orange chair in a park in Brisbane.
My Mum has given me so much, but this Mother’s Day, I am grateful for the gift of shared perspective, shared understanding and shared connection.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful Mums out there.