Community Scoop

Having a choice – “some people have all the luck!”

Gabrielle OBrienGabrielle O’Brien
Chief Executive Officer 
Birthright NZ

Yesterday was my day off (or “day on” as another working parent named it), when I got to do lots of different things and be “Me” in lots of different ways.

The day started with “Exercise Me” and my regular Wednesday run with a good friend – it’s never pretty, we’re not fast and if it wasn’t for the peer pressure and chance to catch up, it wouldn’t happen!

Next up, “Community Me” had a meeting with a local NGO with whom I am doing some voluntary work later in the year.  This was the first time I had met the contact there and the first chance I had to visit their operation.  I came away excited about the prospect of working with them and in awe of what they do on a daily basis.

“Community Me” was followed by “Mother Me” who took the opportunity of the great teenage boy bribery weapon known as food to take my 15 year old out to lunch.  As well as yet again being awestruck by the capacity of a teenage boy to eat (and hence why we don’t go out to lunch often!) I was reminded of the power of the ‘hang out” – just having the luxury of being around for those occasional gems that are still there beneath the grunts and the grumbles.

“Unpaid Housekeeper Me” then had the joy of the grocery shop albeit with the assistance of said 15 year old (cross reference to food and bribery!) and the freedom of mumbling about the cost, but without that sick feeling that something essential was going to have to be left off the list because the household budget wasn’t up to it.

This was followed by “Delegate Me” who managed to farm out preparation of that evening’s meal to the first born whilst “Curious Me” got to go to the Doris Gordon memorial lecture by Anne Firth Murray from Stanford University on “International Women’s Health and Human Rights”.  I also had my curiosity piqued on hearing that her lecture series on “Love as a form of Social Justice” would soon be available online as one of the Stanford MOOCs (Massive online open course) via my home broadband connection..

As I headed home after a very stimulating lecture, “Reflective Me” was not only processing the content of the lecture but also the discussion regarding whether it was appropriate to have a lecture in modern times in the name of Doris Gordon who was a pioneer in women’s health and instrumental in establishing National Women’s Hospital but whose views regarding birth control and race have not stood the test of time or scrutiny.  I’m still mulling that one over.

As I got to the “Relaxing Me” part of the day in my warm, dry home on my comfortable couch, my main takeaway was a comment that Anne Firth Murray made in her lecture about choice.  Such power in such a small, unassuming word.

Every day I get to enjoy a wide range of choices thanks to the family I was lucky enough to be born into, my education, my physical and mental wellbeing, my combined household income, the support networks of family and friends and frankly my overall good fortune to date (pause to touch wood)!     Any one of these things being out of sync means choices are restricted and the type of “ordinary” day I had yesterday being a pipe dream.

For me, it is a timely reminder of the responsibility we all have not to take choice for granted. Not just because one of life’s curve balls might mean that we find ourselves in very different circumstances but because we also have a responsibility to advocate and work for choice for those who don’t have it.

This blog marks my last blog for ComVoices as I move from my role at Birthright to a new role outside the community and voluntary sector.  Good luck to all of you fighting for that choice on a daily basis.  I may not be doing it in the same way, but I’m there with you!

Gabrielle O’Brien is the CEO of Birthright NZ.  Birthright works to strengthen and enrich the lives of children and families.  They specialise in working with families led by one person.

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

Click here for our website: