What makes the property on the North Shore so valuable? Indeed the Eastern suburbs too?

I remember discussing these very topics with the writers’ group I started a few years back. Looking around the room to the writers in the group, you could see the diversity. Like me, none of them was born and bred on the North Shore. We were all struggling to understand its heart, values, the customs and the secret social codes.

The anthology we ended up writing, where seven of us contributed thirteen original stories, came out of the frustration and the lack of understanding of our surrounds and the people who came from private school upbringings and keeping their privacy around us, so that we felt there was a world with invisible barriers, the minds of the people who didn’t recognise those of us who didn’t share their upbringing. Cliquey? You bet and hence the grievances with the people and the community were aired out one by one in the stories.

Now, a few years later, with my Lucy almost two and another girl on the way in December, my perspective is from the inside. The mothers’ groups I’ve joined and the people I run into could not be more open with friendships running deep though we only met each other about two years ago. They’re always ready to share their time, homes and welcome me and Lucy with open arms.

What a change a few years make.

The anthology, “Pieces of North Shore” didn’t make a dent in terms of sales or impact and I just wonder if our target audience was so involved in the community to pay attention to what it felt like for people who were just new, who didn’t yet have families or had children in private school and felt a bit out of their league with the cliquey mums who all grew up together.

Thankfully, by the time Lucy’s ready for school, if we end up staying in the community, I will have a group of lovely ladies to share our children’s school experiences with.

So, going back to the original question.

What makes places like the North Shore and the Eastern Suburbs prime locations?

Sure, they’re near the water, have beautiful views, but is that enough? I threw around the theory that it’s the community spirit, the closeness of the people that brings real value to these parts. There’s a history of Catholics settling the North Shore and the Eastern suburbs have an Orthodox Jewish feel, where you can feel tradition among the kosher cafes.

Believe it or not, when first settled, the North Shore held the poorer and the less fashionable suburbs. How it’s all turned around.

What brings the community spirit?

As someone who’s criticised the institution of religion, for the very fact that it breeds idol worship, false pride, unawareness and division among people, I’m going to say that the churches, be they Catholic, Anglican, Baptist or other sects, bring the community together.

This was apparent at Graham’s wake. Graham is a man who lived on the streets of Crows Nest for the past 25 years.

In my early days as a mother, I felt out of sync with the ladies who’ve now become dear friends. Their obsession with their new babies was something I could not share. I love Lucy and yet I feel a little detached. She’s a new spirit but an old soul.

In Khalil Gibran’s words “your children, they are not your own, they’re life’s longing for itself…” so while I felt a bond, I could not bring myself to obsess over how much milk, water or nappies she had a day. I only looked into her eyes and if I saw the spark, I knew she was OK despite her weight, which was low. By the way, the only way to know someone you’re talking to is feeling you is the spark in their eyes.

As someone whose joy is found in written expression, during the first few months of Lucy’s life, I wasn’t writing regularly and hence felt the doldrums of creativity turning sour and creating needless drama in my life. We are all creative beings and for some of us the creative outlet is worry, anger, fear or upset over things we cannot change. Those emotions crept in and were swept under the rug.

As I write, they’re present but I’ve now learned to acknowledge them and try to understand their source so I can respect their role in my life and bring this into the writing.

So, churches, religion…

It hit me on the day of Graham’s wake. Graham was a special figure. All villages need the people who live on the fringes, who show us a different life than the family life we live. Graham brought out the community spirit, as everyone in Crows Nest was responsible for his survival. People gifted him useful items, money, and had a chat with him, which made him one of the colours of the tight-knit community and he gave us his presence.

Graham’s simplicity, and the puzzling collection of Golf books, among bare necessities, sparked my imagination, when one day, Lucy led me to him while we were playing in the grassy knoll that is children and doggy heaven.

I was overwhelmed by material possessions after Christmas. We have more than two of everything and things are not what makes life purposeful. Graham reminded me of this. I gave him a coffee mug I received as a Christmas gift and made an effort to give away everything else that’s in good possession that I don’t need.

And Graham’s wake, that’s where I woke up to the power of love within one’s heart in guiding people to those in need. If we don’t feel the love in our own hearts, and this love you can call God, creative spirit, the universe, Allah, source energy, whatever, it is felt in the heart and it leads us to connect with ourselves, with each other, nature and create beauty out of nothing. Without it, we are mere shells even if the ego identifies with religion.

I now recognise the power of love that comes from within and that it can take many forms. Warren Buffett certainly believes in the power of money to do good. He makes sense of the world through how the money moves, Steve Jobs’s spirit moved him to create human experiences with technology, writers write, painters paint, carers care. At the end of the day, we are all connecting to the same source, the force of the universe.

Life becomes richer when we toss aside judgment, the concepts of good or evil, and embrace that everyone’s a human being, doing their best to get through their days.

Over to you…

How have your thoughts or judgments about people, institutions or situations changed after a community experience?