We found him sitting in an experimental shaft dug into the wall of an opal mine. It was just above the water level of an abandoned cutting that had filled water when the miner excavated for opal. The hydrologist was reading the paper, several books lay strewn beside him.
Above the cut, the opal field shimmered under fifty-degree heat. I was gasping, longing for a cool place. We heard about a flooded mineshaft used as a swimming pool and went in search. We found not only the pool but also a man who had found the ideal spot to while away a few hours on a Sunday. We swam and played in the water thanking the miner who excavated the mine only to lose it to the rising water table. We speculated about the fortune he might have lost
The hydrologist was a quiet man, his greeting lacked enthusiasm. My husband, Bruce, is a hail-fellow-well-met kind of person. Eventually the hydrologist thawed and related something of his story. He had begun life in Europe studying hydrology and gaining a degree. He decided to immigrate to Australia hoping for a better life, settling in the north of Western Australia.
Poor English made him a laughing stock among his Aussie work mates. He became more isolated and hurt and withdrew from society. Eventually he arrived on the opal field mining for opal.
He became the unofficial keeper of the swimming pool, cleaning up the used nappies, empty hair shampoo bottles and other debris left by careless users of the swimming pool. The area was so degraded with rubbish that one felt sick at the sight and did not want to swim. When the place became too bad the hydrologist would set off some dynamite and blow the pool out. It would be clean again for a while.
A PLACE IN THE SUN
The hydrologist found many nationalities on the opal field and he no longer stood out as different. He found a niche where he was accepted. He was able to be himself and so he quietly settled into the community. Many people seeking a different lifestyle made up the community and nobody bothered him. He was prepared to forgo working as a hydrologist to be able to feel safe and even part of a small community where the people represented many nations of the world. Bruce felt privileged to hear the hydrologist’s story.
We were misfits ourselves, arriving on the field to mine not knowing a soul and even less about mining. We were the laughing stock of the community. To make us more of a misfit our three co-miners were Aboriginals. Racism on the field was alive and well, we became the butt of many jokes.
As for us, being shunned was no big deal; we would only be there a short time, then we would leave. Like many others of our ilk, we were in search of a fortune, so being a misfit was a small price to pay.
Jesus Christ was a misfit. He still is. Those of us who choose to accept him into their heart are freaks. We are prepared to accept being the odd man out because of the gift of eternal life, a richer, more satified and purposeful life, the gift of goodness, becoming a favoured child of God, to name just a few.