Love has been on my mind this week. Not romantic love, but the kind of love that makes all things possible and achievable.
The kind of love that former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating spoke of last week in the first of a series of biographical television interviews when he described the unconditional support of his mother and grandmother who “invested a ton of love in me”.
Asked what had given him such a sense of confidence at a young age, he replied: “You’ve got to go through life with someone thinking you’re special. You know, when you’ve got to get the sword out for real combat, I think having the love quotient working for you is very powerful…It’s almost like wearing an asbestos suit – you go through the fire but you’re not going to be burned because someone loves you, you are complete, you are together.”
And the kind of love that made a whole lot of strangers help make a five-year-old’s fantasy come true last week, when San Francisco turned itself – for a day, anyway – into Gotham City to fulfil the wish of Miles Scott, who is in remission from leukaemia. When the Make-A-Wish Foundation asked for volunteers to help with its San-Francisco-to-Gotham transformation, the word spread like wildfire through social media. Batman artist Graham Nolan drew Miles as “Batkid” into a piece of original art; someone loaned their Lamborghini for the Batmobile; 21,000 people lined the streets to watch the young superhero in action wearing his bat-suit.
“I’ve never seen anything go viral like this, with the outpouring of support from across the world,” Patricia Wilson of Make-a-Wish Foundation, the charity which organised the day, told the media.
Tomorrow, another hero will don a suit – a normal, charcoal grey lounge suit – to face demons of the past in a Sydney office tower. Australian photographer Richard “Tommy” Campion will be a key witness in the first day of public hearings in Case Study 3 as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response into Child Sexual Abuse.
Case Study 3 deals with the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home, in Lismore, New South Wales, where Tommy lived from the age of two, from 1949 to 1965, and where he was among an estimated 200 children who were physically and sexually abused over many years. The hearing will run for two weeks.
I have written about Tommy’s story before. Tomorrow, hopefully, will be the final chapter in his long battle for justice for all those children. But I’ve been reminded again over the past weeks about the power of love. As the date for the hearing drew closer, with Tommy keeping his supporters up-to-date on his Facebook page, Tommy v Anglican Church, the out-pouring of love flowing his way has been great.
He’s been offered help from many quarters, from a shirt to wear with his suit to an airport-to-hotel lift on arrival in Sydney; messages have flowed in. Friends and strangers have shown their love, support and admiration in any way they could.
When Tommy appears in front of the Royal Commission tomorrow, what the Commissioners, the legal teams for both sides, and those in the public gallery will see is a man in a charcoal grey suit and a pink shirt. And if they look carefully they may notice a pair of hot pink socks too. The socks are Tommy’s trademark and there’ll be plenty of people around Australia and elsewhere wearing pink socks tomorrow as a sign of solidarity for him on this momentous day.
And anyone who knows Tommy will know that a suit is not his favoured apparel. His usual attire, no matter what the occasion, is “hippy pants” – the more colourful, the better – and a tee-shirt. The lounge suit is a sign of how much he respects the role of the Royal Commission in helping the abused children and bringing to account those who have lied, obstructed and obfuscated for years to hide the truth and deny responsibility.
What those in the hearing room won’t see is the “asbestos suit” of love he’s also wearing. Tommy may have not had that kind of love to protect and nurture him as a child, but he’s got it now. In spades.
As he draws his sword for the final stage of combat tomorrow, he’ll be wearing it in the knowledge that he’s not alone. Of that he can be sure.