Her story was a simple story. It was a story of resilience and hope in the face of overwhelming adversity.
It is a story that inspired my family while we were celebrating my Dad's 70th birthday. It inspired us in the most unlikely of places- Sea World on the Gold Coast.
After I had bought my $10 piece of pizza and my sons had waited in line for 40 minutes for their $19 hamburger and chips (don't get me started on that!), Dad told me of a conversation he had with a lady at his table.
She was from Iraq. Escaping from persecution, she fled to Jordan with her husband. They stayed in Jordan for 7 years and had a son. They "luckily", through a series of incredible events, found themselves in New Zealand. In New Zealand a daughter was born and is now a "proud kiwi daughter."
They now have been granted permission to settle in Australia and live in Melbourne.
My Dad's key question, and the question most Aussies always ask visitors to our shores, "What do you now think of Australia?" As if we always love to know where we sit in the world's thinking. It helps our own sense of worth I think.
"I love Australia. It is so safe."
And perhaps a day at Sea World is what all of us need.
In essence, we are all migrants to these shores. The first Australians have allowed us to build a life in this great land. Yes, some of it was taken by force. Yes, some of it was not bought, bartered or offered. But, we share this land with them and a simple "Welcome to Country" ceremony, like we experienced 2 nights ago at "The Outback Spectacular", allows 200 odd years of pain to somewhat dissipate.
In essence, I am the offspring of a migrant. My Dad and Mum came out as "10 pound poms", used it as an excuse to get married and have a cheap honeymoon. They are still on that cheap honeymoon and holiday!
We have a chance to make this the best, safest country in the world. Spend a day at a place like Sea World and take a moment to see what happens. People leave bags, strollers and personal items at the start of rides. They are still there on your return. Your wallet, backpack and phone are all easily accessible, by anyone; yet, everything is there at the end of the day. You stand in queues with people from around the world. You apologise for bumping into to each other, you make strange faces at their kids, your nieces don't see colour, they just see another kid waiting in line for the ride of their life on the Viking flume ride.
My son and I are planning an overseas holiday and we have already been warned, "Yes, you may just need to buy that bumbag." "Be aware of pickpockets." "Only put in your pocket what you are prepared to have stolen!"
God tells us how we should treat those who come to "our" land.
"When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God" (Leviticus chapter 19 verses 33-34).
This is hopefully a simple story about the power of hope and how as regular people, we can do incredible things because there is no one else who can. This is a little insight what it could be like for a stranger in Australia. Yet, my Dad's simple conversation enhanced a person's perception of Australia.
Her final words to my Dad?
"And you are such a lovely man for talking to me."
It's that simple.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous articles can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html