Young at Heart: The faces of true courage

DURING the past two weeks readers have been made aware of very moving and quite different scenarios in which two  brave and courageous young people in our society, one in our local community and one who is known throughout the world, have shared their struggles, their  grief, their hopes with us all.

I am referring to Kristy Thomson in our local community, and on the world scene Ian Thorpe, who is acknowledged as one of the greats at an international swimming level.

Kristy is the young mother whose little daughter Patiya May was killed by a falling tree in a totally random freak wild weather accident.

This week I read of the generosity of the Bendigo community in helping Kristy return to her mother’s home in Goornong as she recovers from the terrible injuries she sustained when the tree fell so silently and swiftly on Patiya May and herself.

I counted 34 different businesses listed,  all of whom offered their time and expertise to bring about the necessary changes to the home Kristy will live in. Overall that adds up to a much greater number of people actually involved in each business who contributed their time and materials. 

This is apart from her wonderful mother who never left Kristy’s side as she recovered in Melbourne, and the remainder of her immediate family.

As I read this story of our local community I felt such pride in Bendigo.  It is a generous community to so many people. Every day we read of someone in need of genuine help and support, whether it be a house fire, an ill child or a terrible work accident, but surrounding these grieving people is a group of caring community and family members ready to throw their energies behind a fundraiser, or some form of support such as Kristy has just experienced.

No one can imagine the sorrow that Kristy and her family will be experiencing every day, grieving for the loss of her little girl while supporting Kristy’s wellbeing as she climbs that slow path back to recovery.  

I hope Kristy may be comforted in realising how many people do care about her and admire her bravery and optimism in the face of such an unparalleled tragedy. 

In another challenging scenario, albeit not on the same scale as Kristy’s tragedy, Ian Thorpe has at last been able to face his personal demons, and after battling depression, alcohol abuse and thoughts of suicide he has come out publicly to announce he is gay.

That will come as no surprise to some people but it is a reflection of the values of our society that he felt the weight of public opinion and judgement too great for him to face the community with his news until now. 

He is such an icon, a gracious, sensitive man, a dedicated athlete who spent years reaching the peak of swimming achievements, a tremendous competitor. 

His sexuality is no one’s business but his own.

 I like to believe that we are a mature enough nation to wish him well as he recovers his health.  His mental health issues will hopefully fade now that he will no longer be pursued over the sexuality questions. Hopefully family, friends and colleagues are giving him support.

Ian Thorpe is now more than ever a beacon of light for other young people who need our support while they struggle with questions around mental health issues and their sexual orientation. His courage in speaking out I have no doubt will save lives and help give support to vulnerable young people in our community. 

Both Kristy and Ian have shown the face of true courage. 


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