A ‘mail-out’ was conducted in a beautiful house in a leafy green Melbourne suburb on Tuesday night last week. There you go. This is an international scoop for the Time & Space Blog. Now admittedly, it has been a big news week. If you are reading this sometime after publication – here’s what else has happened: Whitney Houston died last Saturday; Greece is on the brink of economic default and the world is watching as hundreds are murdered in Syria every day. Still, having sat on this mail-out story for ten days now, the big media outlets have had their chance.

The St Kevin’s College Fathers Association support a lot of bonding experiences for the boys of the school and their mums, dads and mentors. With the help of some key people on the school staff (who get the printing, the labels and envelopes ready), this committee promote the programs organising practical things like this mail-out to let families know about them.

So who are the heroes of this world exclusive? Jerome, Kaz and his wife Nancy, Onofrio (that’s Italian for ‘Humphrey’ which means ‘peaceful warrior’ – I found that out on that thing they call the World Wide Web), Stan and Sergio, joined Adrian, Judith and their kids in their home. The envelopes were stuffed in 90 minutes. They first program batch of letters were posted the next day. Job done.

So there is the news. You’re dumbfounded… earth shattering revelation – yes? You’ll never forget where you were when read this first – right?

OK – let’s remove the tongue from the cheek for a moment and have a look at three subtle things that were happening at this event.

1. Walking up the driveway, a young primary school girl was stretching forward on the trampoline, reading a book.

“Is this where the meeting is for the St Kevin’s dads?”

“Yes” says the girl, glancing at a timer in her hand, intently focusing on the book. Her eyes hardly looked up.

Adrian, her dad, opens the door and welcomes me in. A few minutes later, the young lady wanders in.

“Bill, have you met Grace?”

“Very briefly” I answer, “Grace told me, just before, that I was at the right address… which was really nice of her cos’ I could see she was very busy.”

I discover she was timing her nightly twenty minute reading session. She smiles and explains, “That was why I couldn’t show you in. I had to finish my reading”.

“That’s a great habit to form Grace – really impressive how serious you are about it,” I say.

Adrian and Grace then just banter about the day and a delightful exchange between father and daughter transpires quite naturally. The everyday family routine was happening before me.

2. As the mail out crew arrived, the jobs were sorted and the team got underway. This is when we met Alex, Adrian and Judith’s oldest. He came downstairs and was invited to help out for a while… folding, stuffing envelopes, joining in. He was happily engaging in the chat. Letting the other dads and mums know how his start to the year had gone. A few opinions about Year 7 & 8 rivalry were shared. For a few minutes, he was our fellow helper.

Earlier I’d said to Adrian… “You’re good to be hosting this and you’ve been on the committee for a while now. Very generous of you to give up your time. I think your kids will remember that you chipped in and got involved.”

I explained how my dad used to run mail-outs in our dining room for the Old Collegians Association at my school. Adrian’s dad got involved in school things too. We swapped a few stories, remembering our parents’ efforts. They weren’t perfect – sometimes embarrassing but they were in there with their sleeves rolled up – having a go.

3. The banter was lively and fun throughout the job. Lots of friendly jibes. Some of the team were playfully competing to be as quick as they could. There was laughter happening as the work was done. Observations about modern life were shared.

When he arrived, Onofrio was asked where his cup cakes were. In his time on the committee, he has built a reputation as a cup cake master chef. At a later moment I ask him a bit about it.

“I like doing it. It is ‘time-out’ for me,” Onofrio explains.

Adrian offers cups of tea and coffee. He opens a bottle of wine. Judith brings over a plate of really yummy cheese and nibbles.

Job finished and the group relaxes. Serg had got there a bit later. He explained that he had a bit on but still wanted to come. As a few planning matters are discussed, I let Serg know he will be getting a call to help out at the upcoming Father-Son night.

“No need to call, when is it?” asks Serg. He checks his phone diary as I give him the date.

“I’m free” he says, “it’s locked in.”

So what do you think the headlines are for this good news story?

Primary school girl, reads book uninterrupted for 20

Teenage boy helps group of adults with task – joins in the

Family welcome people into the home. Generous volunteers
complete mail-out and enjoy each others’ company!

Of course, we know this volunteer work party is not the sort of story that CNN, News Limited or the ABC are going for as their number 1 item of the week. But… parents do help their kids develop good habits… teenagers chip in and help others, showing signs that they are on their way to being young adults… people get together and volunteer. These things happen every day… all over the world. And it is good news.

In getting Adrian’s permission to post this story he emailed back his ‘OK’ with this message…

It is funny that the things you mentioned I had never given any thought to. This
is my fourth year in the association and the other night felt like having good
friends around rather than conducting a meeting.

I’m convinced that it is the little efforts like this… these people ‘turning up’ that: embed the memory for future generations to follow their example. It is this sort of generosity that makes the difference between us living in a society rather than just an economy. To all the volunteers reading this. I salute you!

As always feel free to offer your reflections, your memories and insights in the space below.

Bill Jennings