By Kiri Groeneveld
I ARRIVED early – only by a few minutes, but long enough to sit and compose myself in the car.
It was a pristine morning, the sun beating back the autumn day while the Brisbane Powerhouse stood assertive against the spotless blue sky.
I was nervous, which surprised me considering I used to do this for a job.
But I was nervous all the same, probably because the day felt special.
It felt new and restless, as if impatiently waiting to be inspired.
Walking through the car park I bumped into an old friend, Dave Jorna.
We didn’t have long to chat before I got whisked through the front doors, past where the band was rehearsing, backstage, upstairs and into a large dressing room, all to myself.
“Is there anything you need, Kiri?”
“Umm, no, I’m alright, thank you.”
“No worries. I’ll go grab you a bottle of water.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“No. Thank you.”
I had been asked to speak at the Powerhouse of Leaders, an event run by Brisbane Catholic Education for Year 12 leaders from all around Brisbane archdiocese.
Three key speakers had been organised for the morning, and I was the middle one.
We had all been asked to divulge something we had done that made ourselves feel proud.
Matthew Ames was the first speaker. Matthew is a husband to a beautiful wife and the father of four kids.
He’s a son, a brother, a friend and a sports lover.
He also happens to be an engineer, and happens to be limbless.
Matthew became incredibly sick after contracting streptococcal infection resulting in toxic shock and the loss of all four limbs.
He spoke about going to hospital with an illness, being put into an induced coma, and waking up without any arms or legs.
He spoke about beating the odds, having to relearn basic skills like breathing and balance, and having to rethink his life. But that isn’t what made him proud.
Matthew said what made him proud was having a loving family, and focusing on those small tasks that would bring him home to them.
He said his purpose in life was never career driven or even planned out in any particular way.
He just felt it was his purpose to contribute to a happy world. And he certainly didn’t need his arms and legs to do that.
Matthew was humble and funny and skilled. He was positive and proud.
I spoke after Matthew (which, yes, was intimidating).
I think the reason I had been experiencing those slight nerves that morning was because this was the first time I was speaking about my current job.
Normally any public speaking on my behalf involved emceeing an event, or performing a drama skit.
But this was the first time I was speaking about my career as a camera and audio operator and my dream of making movies.
I told the students what made me proud was biting off more than I can chew, and chewing like hell.
What made me proud was taking responsibility for my dream, and I implored all of them to do the same.
Wrapping up the morning’s key speakers – quite perfectly – was Roman MC, a freestyler.
His passion, his love, and the thing that made him “get nerdy” was language, and how using the right words can be such a powerful tool and paint pictures in people’s heads.
By using words offered by Matthew, myself and students in the audience, Roman freestyled a rap, summing up the feelings of the day – feeling a “crazy pride” in our own dreams and purposes in life, whatever they may be.
The Powerhouse of Leaders was a great success.
During morning tea, I loved over-hearing numerous students and staff discuss and share their own passions.
I got to meet new people, and catch up with some who had been in my life for a while – including a reunion with my own school captain Nick Tyler, who is now the campus minister at our high school Carmel College, and who also was and still is a great friend.
Simply being invited to be part of such a positive and inspiring day was enough to make me feel proud.
But it was those young leaders around me that the day was all about – those eager, capable, excitable and fearless leaders.
I hope they find their purpose in life, I hope they take responsibility for it, and I hope they feel a crazy pride for what they achieve along the way.