Gifts of listening and talking both medicine

View from the Paddock: Gifts of listening and talking

Opinion
Alice Mabin, Asia Pacific BEFA Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

Alice Mabin, Asia Pacific BEFA Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

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As she left the lush green pastures of Victoria last week, Alice Mabin knew the oasis there was about to end and the further north she drove, the more upsetting the scene would get.

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As I left the lush green pastures of Victoria last week, I knew that this oasis was about to end and the further north I drove, the more upsetting the scene would get.

To see the creeks and dams dry, I struggled to grasp just what it would be like to be in the farmers shoes. And I knew that no amount of creative thinking was going to fix the situation. The only remedy is rain.

Passing through Tenterfield and seeing how close the fires got to the town, I spent an hour listening to my customers talk.....as I have come to learn, talking is the best medicine.

Venturing into central Queensland to see valued businesses, I travelled the desolate country with no expectation of a successful selling trip.

With farmers not spending, shops would not be buying either, but I knew that the excursion was necessary. I may not have the answers, but I did have an ear to listen and a smile to bring a little energy to what may seem for many, a never-ending nightmare.

Everywhere I went I made sure that I urged shops to tag themselves in the #Buyfromthebush promotion, a sensational social media concept that is connecting city people with shops in rural towns to buy gifts and is having an impact.

So many people in the bush are suffering. Some rural communities have been labelled as destitute and ruined and this affects their self-identity - it becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

In fact, they don't just cry and agonise, they laugh, love, and dig deep to persist in this insipid landscape. Farmers and their families are in dire drought distress, and metal health conditions are major problem, but how dare we classify them and squash their optimistic voices.

It is a fine line to walk, having a conversation with a farmer at the moment; they are proud people, they don't want a handout, they don't want you to feel sorry for them, they don't want to dwell on the negative. They are 'glass half full' type of people.

As I drove out of one town I passed a farmer in the paddock on the side of the road. In front of him stood a mob of cattle, gathered around his vehicle, while the farmer stood there with his hands on his hips.

A central Queensland farmer receiving a copy of Alice Mabin's latest book.

A central Queensland farmer receiving a copy of Alice Mabin's latest book.

I drove another kilometre up the road then turned around and came back to the farmer because I felt compelled to stop and talk to him.

In years gone by, I have never had an issue striking up a conversation with a farmer. But on this day, I was a little lost for words, as was the farmer. Many things rushed through my head. Was he worried that I was a 'do-gooder' about to have a go at him? Would I say the wrong thing and upset him?

We didn't end up exchanging many words, but he put on his best smile for me, with his 'she'll be right, it will rain soon' attitude.

I dug to the back of my car for a box of books and gave him a copy of The Grower - The heartbeat of Australia. As I signed it, I told the farmer that I appreciate what he does in battling through the drought to continue to put food on the plates for people who will never get the chance to thank him and then I was on my way.

The deed felt good, but it got me to thinking that allowing myself to truly 'feel' what the farmer was going through, meant that all judgement was removed and I was able to see the farmer for who he really is in his environment, and all that was left was compassion.

And it is this compassion that can go a long way to helping the farmers through until it rains.

- Alice Mabin, Asia Pacific BEFA Female Entrepreneur of the Year

The story Gifts of listening and talking both medicine first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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