A Penny For Your Thoughts By Lara Czysnok

After returning from the phenomenal experience that was The Big Lift just a few days ago, the experiences are deeply etched on my mind. Not yet memories, the friends I made, opportunities I had, and lessons learnt are very much experiences that I hope to always carry with me. Expectations are a damned thing. They are slimy, prickly little creatures that get into our heads and make us think of the worst-case scenario. In my mind, I was entering into a week of chattering teeth, lengthy bus rides and overcooked camp food. For someone who has the inclination to always be right, it was quite a shock to the system to be so blatantly wrong. Of course my teeth were in a perpetual state of chattering, single digit temperatures would do that to a person, but that was concealed by an indelible smile that was masked across my face within a matter of hours and remained there for the following nine days.

As a second-year student, finally getting into the swing and mastering the so-called uni life I decided to step up my game. I know where the cheapest coffee on campus is, the best napping spots and always manage to get a seat in the library. At the beginning of 2018, I made a vow to make a conscious effort to immerse myself in campus life; be it joining a club, playing a sport or exploiting as many of the free sausage sizzles as I could. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that by joining The Big Lift I would not just be joining a club, but a family. In a matter of days my family went from 3 to 40.

Being stuck on a bus with 37 strangers with nothing but the ancient art of conversation was a seemingly daunting task. No matter how old or experienced you get at this crazy thing called life, meeting new people is still an experience which sends you right back to kindergarten where you would do anything to be invited to play in the sand pit. The Big Lift brought out everyone’s inner child. There was no shortage of singing and dancing, there was a continual flow of snacks and you were perpetually on the hunt to track down your 'Bus Crush'. 

The Big Lift was an experience that I have not taken lightly. The penny has well and truly dropped. I have a new and reformed understanding of community, what helping a neighbour looks like and seen true altruism in action. Growing up in Sydney in the 21st century we often lose sight of these simple treasures. As a collective we all agreed that very few of us really knew our neighbours, so you would think when your closest neighbour was 30km down the road you would have more of a reason to be a stranger, and yet that was far from the case. Watching townspeople and Lifters pick up someone else’s rubbish, build a railway they were probably never going to ride and plant trees they would never see grow taught me a lot about altruism. In this supposed dog eat dog world altruism was seemingly lost and forgotten. No one does anything for nothing. Everyone does something for something. Yet, in Ganmain all it took was a quick Facebook post to the community group and dozens came flocking to pick up rubbish they had never dropped expecting nothing in return but a slice of Val's delicious lemon sponge. 

The Big Lift taught me a lot about people and even more about myself. Talking to total strangers brings to light things you never knew about yourself. Tennessee Williams’ poetic license put it best when he said that he “always depended on the kindness of strangers” and this does not ring truer than it does for The Big Lift. My urge to make a difference is stronger than ever. Planting a tree is a drop in the ocean of social responsibility but it is also symbolic of change, growth and opportunity. Trees not only consist of multiple branches that create the bigger picture, but once the tree has grown and developed and strong enough, it brings new life. Life makes home of the tree. 

Going on The Big Lift, never did I imagine I would make one friend let alone 37 of them. My 37 friends are not just friends, they are not just 'Lifters', they are family. We are a family. The power and social impact that 'paying it forward' can have is unfathomable. Meeting 37 people who want to do the same things as you is almost like magic. Finding one person similar to you is enough of a challenge, but 37 of them. That certainly does not happen every day. 

So to my fellow Lifters, I say thank you. You are a special bunch, I vow never to let you out of my sight or heart.