The world is charged with the grandeur of God

It will shine out like shining from shook foil-

It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil


The Grandeur of God


These words from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins describe the inherent beauty that lies in nature, which to the eye that takes time to observe it, will be as obvious as the heavenly scent of a gardenia bush in full bloom. But not only will it be obvious, its beauty will grow on the observer with the certainty of oil oozing under the pressure of the persistent press.



Off the deck at my new home, I have the opportunity to be privy to the social behaviours of a mob of kangaroos- seventeen in all.


They are in themselves a reflection of the grandeur of God. …and my wonder has slowly gathered to a greatness, definitely, like the ooze of oil crushed, whilst I have had the privilege of observing them.

The mob comprises of one dominant male, many does, and a number of joeys.

My observations without their permission, initially felt to me like an uninvited intrusion into their personal lives. It’s as if I was watching a natural reality television show, with all of its dramas, its emotions and intimate revelations. However after several weeks of invasion of their privacy,   the roos would just note my presence……. and continue about their daily routines in silence – in their silence and in mine.

Elected silence, sing to me

And beat upon my whorled ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be

The music that I care to hear.

The Habit of Perfection

Hopkins in this poem speaks of the impact of silence. Some who write of this poem say that it could be about a young woman entering a convent, or a young man entering the priesthood. While that was in my past some 35 years ago, to me the silence that hovers over the social interactions of the kangaroos is a music that portrays their uniqueness. There are times in our lives when, as my mother used to say, “the silence was deafening”, but here, on my deck, the silence speaks quietly of a music I care to hear.

And in this silence I continue to be the voyeur………………..

The buck, or dominant male, is like any male when it comes to wooing the does in his mob. He is a persistent, consummate, amorous lover, demonstrating affection in a most remarkable manner. Gentle pawing of her neck, tail, and front paws; sidling up to her with a disturbing blend of innocence and lust. But there is one difference between the buck and his human counterparts. ‘No’ means definitely ‘No’. In this particular reality television show, I have seen the most perfect demonstration of “ I have got a head ache’, when a doe, tired of the vain attempts by the buck to woe her, lay down, and gave him an exquisitely defined cold shoulder.

Throughout my observations, I witnessed all the productive human behaviours you might like to list: including reprimand, love, romance, supervision, care and respect….even a little frustration!

Most fascinating has been the development of the joeys, which spend considerable time, after birth, in the mother’s pouch. The almost embryonic joey,  once born is  just centimeters long. It climbs up the mother’s stomach, until it finds the pouch, climbs in, and attaches to  a teat, until it is time to venture from the pouch itself.

From my decking, I have seen joeys which are almost 90 centimeters tall, still using the pouch…… This pouch served the needs of the young joey, the size of our thumb, and the mature joey, who at times exits the pouch, runs around, like a new puppy, and then crawls back into the pouch, sometimes to the mother’s obvious dismay. When it enters, legs and the tail can be seen to be hanging out. At times the joey will stick its head out of the pouch, and feed while the mother herself is feeding. What an amazing environment.

It is here I would like to leave the reality that unfolds before me each day as I sit upon my deck. I leave because I have become fascinated by the amazing capacity of the kangaroo pouch to adapt to the changing size and needs of the joey as it develops. The environment created is functional, safe, and secure without being rigid. How remarkable!

It is well defined whilst being flexible. It is certain without being restricting. It protects without suffocating.   It nurtures without force feeding. It challenges without risk.

It is in this environment that the joey can reach its potential … can become what it needs to become. To do what it needs to do.

We, as individuals, all exist in multiple social environments. Our family, work, clubs, organizations, church, and other varied social constructs.

Some of these are like the joey’s environment. Some are not.

I remember my time as a child and adolescent in a church in which I was brought up. This environment was rigid. It was stifling. I was force feed. It had no flexibility. Who I was capable of becoming became incapable of realization. I was lost in this environment. My potential ignored.  As a result, I soon learnt that I did not fit, so I fled.

Some environments are perfect for potential.

The kangaroo pouch is one such environment.

Our Toastmaster clubs need also to be so. They need to be a natural environment in which we can all develop no matter what our capacity for both leadership and communication. Some new members arrive through our doors at what could be called embryonic levels; others could do so demonstrating skills of the developing adolescent. No matter the capacity of the new member, the club environment needs to reflect the needs of the member, and so it needs to have all the qualities of the joey’s pouch:  functional, safe, secure, flexible, certain, protecting, nurturing, and challenging.

But this environment, that is perfect for potential, must also be flexible enough to meet the needs of the more experienced Toastmaster. Rigidity in programming and in expectation can result in the creation of an environment which does not meet the need of the experienced Toastmaster. A lack of knowledge of the aspirations of the skilled Toastmaster can also result in a less than perfect environment for these members who are hungry for, or needful of, further development in both leadership and communication.

So how can a club leadership team ensure the club environment has all the qualities of the joey’s pouch – for all its members? The answer lies in reflection and deed;   reflection upon the current reality with regard to the club’s ability to cater for the needs of all of its members. But alas, awareness is not curative on its own. It needs to be wedded with deed. Once aware, we need to act, and our actions need to recognise the developmental requirements of the member – their wishes – their aspirations.

Once acted upon, then the environment can truly reflect the remarkable natural world which is the joey’s pouch.

This symbol for an environment which is perfect for potential, can be translated to other social constructs like our families, our churches, our sporting clubs and so on.

But permit me to remain with the Toastmaster Organization. This organization is committed to development of leaders around the world. In each of these clubs in every one of over a 100 countries in which people meet under the Toastmaster banner, there are members who are pursuing greatness – their own greatness – a greatness which has such a personal definition. In the pursuit of their own greatness, they are charged. Their greatness, given the right environment will ‘shine out like shining from shook foil’. And if we take the time to be there with them, their journey ‘will gather to a greatness like the ooze of oil crushed’.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God

It will shine out like shining from shook foil-

It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil



Mark Hunter

Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking 2009.