Mallows, Parachutes and Sailboats

“It’s so fluffy!” If you recognize this line, you may be a fan of “Despicable Me” or simply have spent time in my playful company. What inspired this outburst? Marshmallows. Fluffy, pink, flavored like soft berries and included with every frothy latte, steaming cappuccino and oh so chocolatey hot cocoa. It’s delightful . . . uh, and addictive. Fluffy, happy goodness. (I owe you a photo, if only they lasted long enough to snap.) Cheers, Auckland!

Next on my list of hope boosters and uplifting moments is the parachute game. I visited a lovely little church, St. Heliers Centre, for service this past Sunday.

Early morning light on St. Heliers Centre

As I sat in the entry area waiting for the next service, I found myself suddenly surrounded by about two dozen wee ones gathering around a brightly adorned parachute. I’ve seen it played in the States but not with this level of zeal. Each child virtually went into orbit trying to be selected as the “cat” or the “mouse.” The mice hide under the circular chute, while the cats try to wrap their arms around them and catch them. Meanwhile, not to be left out, the other children around the circle flap the chute to create waves. The giggles, cheers of victory and fun interaction were splendid.

One of the dads, a foster father to two remarkable Māori kids, welcomed me and took me through the flow of the church. Then, everyone spilled out of the hall and in for a fellowship of tea, coffee and light snacks. It was a warm, delightful exchange where several folks came by to see who I was and tell me their story. I even met a fantastic gal from Wisconsin who had since settled in the area. What I enjoyed most, though, was the hopeful glow of this amazing woman, Mona—a beautiful soul celebrating her 95th birthday!

Celebrating 95 years of life’s blessings

On a more solemn note, during the service that followed, I was blessed with a discourse by a returning missionary who visited a medical center in Ethiopia for women suffering the extreme pain and long-term health consequences of fistula (prolonged, obstructed labor). While we may criticize the medical programs in our developed nations, consider the life-threatening challenges a young woman (and her unborn child) might face if she goes into labor and cannot reach a physician. I will not outline the details here but encourage you to explore the courageous work of Hamlin Fistula International. Bless her efforts.

Ah, now the sailboats—my third lofty sight of hope for this post. Auckland is, after all, the City of Sails. I could wax on for hours about the sailing vessels, the outboard boats, the ships, the marinas and the lure of the sea air. What I rediscovered is hope floats. Seeing the smiles of children learning about sailing, feeling their growing empowerment as they navigate a ship and watching kids press their faces against the glass of the ferry made me grin. Oh the sea, how it inspires and renews.

Next, I found out how hope can sail in with a happy surprise meeting. I was lucky enough to visit the Auckland Art Gallery and meet a charming, young docent who shared my first name (ok, with an “h”). She enlightened me to the city’s art scene, the gallery’s offerings and gave me a tip that later served me well about the Auckland Museum. I wish her the utmost success in her blossoming art career and world travels.

Auckland Art Gallery is a must-see

Auckland Art Gallery is a must-see

"Genoa From the New Terrace"

“Genoa From the New Terrace”

Then, I saw how the hope of discovery has buoyancy over time. Continuing on my adventures, I sailed via bus to the Auckland Museum, with its charming staff and expansive three floors of historical wonder. In particular, I was humbled by the power and presence of the native woodworking, clothing, weapons, musical instruments and sailing vessels.

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Sailing vessel on illuminated display

Now that's a canoe

Now that’s a canoe

The experience reminded me that we must explore the reaches of our world and make efforts to reach out further than our simple shoreline. In addition, the time wandering halls and speaking with visitors filled my well of hope with the possibility that we are all sailing the same course to a brighter horizon. Bon voyage, one and all.


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