In exploring a new city, there is a recurring question. How long did the first settlers take to feel that they belonged? Did they know from the first day? Was it in a week, a month, or even a year? What if they never felt that feeling?
In exploring the Peace and Justice museum (yes, there is such a thing in Sydney), I found myself caught in a great exhibit. Whatever one might think of the originals of this country and city, by the late 1800’s and 20th century, the town went through eras of claiming it for themselves. The bad guys wanted to take over. For a while it seemed like they were going to win. Gangsters, crooked policemen, and slippery politicians contributed to the problem in their unique ways. Yet the people claimed the city back for themselves and their families.
I doubt that the museum crafted this message. It was a message delivered through the actions of people that cared. Early photographers chronicled the story through pictures – at times unlabeled and simply cataloged. The raw pictures filled me with emotion of last paths, tragedies, and stories that rarely remembered. It is good to realize that there are things worth fighting for. It makes a difference to know that “you belong.” (1 John 2.20)
The stories ended some twenty or thirty years ago. I know they continue. What are they? What is the story behind the story? Do people in this town know what it is like to belong? Do they have this feeling within them now?
I look around and I see different parts of the story unfolding. The harbor is clear, crisp, and fresh. There is an investment to provide recycling alternatives in public spaces. The city has invested in gardens and the arts. It is a story that continues with an open invitation of inclusion and acceptance.
I know there are flaws in this city. Communities have weaknesses. I can see rough edges. I can also feel its reach for more. Bicycles are welcomed. Public transportation encouraged. The invitation is here.