by Fr Peter Dillon, Surfers Paradise Catholic Parish
In my childhood home, we had this custom of preparing a list of household chores, beside which was a cash amount, for which my siblings and I would be paid at the end of the week. For example: clean your room – sixpence, rake the leaves – threepence, help with washing the dishes – threepence, fill the wood box – threepence, and so on. (Please note the currency denomination and the amounts. Entrance to the showgrounds was about one shilling or 10 cents – the wonder years). This practice only came into play in July, in the lead up to the Exhibition, when our canny parents decided that instead of giving us “free money”, they could get us to work for our wages. That way they got the jobs done and we got the spending money for the Ekka. It wasn’t called win/win back then, but that was a general principle. The practice finished as soon as the Ekka was over when we returned to do the same jobs for free, being correctly reminded that these jobs were our responsibility that went with belonging to our household. No major complaints with that. We saw what was happening here, although we didn’t know how beneficial it would be for us in later life.
While I absolutely believe in the right and justice of being paid for work that enriches and develops the social fabric, and that abuse of workers by underpayment and harsh working conditions is a moral transgression, I do believe that we all have another responsibility to give to the ‘household of humanity’ time and talent for which we may not be remunerated. Again it’s the win/win. We receive from our world many things for which we have not paid, therefore we should give back a certain amount as a balance. I have never once had to pay to walk on our magnificent beaches, or walk through the magical rain forests of North Queensland, nor will I ever expect to do so. These are the “freebies’ of life, but I should never presume upon them as my right, but rather my privilege. This is no great spiritual insight or philosophical awakening, it’s simply: why do we expect to keep receiving when we are not prepared to make a contribution?
Why do we expect that everything we should be doing as a responsibility needs to be compensated for? I feel rather strongly about this in relation to people who might feel they need an inducement to be vaccinated in the Covid battle. I cannot accept that anyone should receive a ‘sweetener’ to “do the right thing”, the responsible thing. The sweetener is being able to participate freely in my community in security and without fear of pandemic illness. Every year I get my flu shot, mainly because I want to stay healthy, but also because those of us who visit hospitals and nursing homes are required, by the said facilities, to show that we are protected from the potential flu. In this way, a number of people are made to feel safer. I have never asked or expected to receive any other inducement to get this shot other than doing what I consider to be the right thing. Similarly, I do not expect the government to give me $5 every time I stop at a red light or zebra crossing, because to do so is not fulfilling a road regulation, but doing the safe and responsible thing. I’m not being good – I’m being sensible and responsible. No cash transaction is required.
I will not regard it as a threat to my human rights to be required to carry a passport to indicate that I have been fully vaccinated, nor will I object if I am asked to show this passport twenty times a day because to do so is to do the right thing. While I am very grateful that my parents helped us earn our Ekka money, I am also grateful that they taught me that not everything I do should be a commercial transaction, and that remuneration does not always come with a dollar value. Sometimes the payoff is knowing that we are able to offer a gift, a contribution to the world, however small, and our Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward us. Stay safe and do the right thing.