Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Holiday reflections...

The staff at the Night Shelter gave us this wall hanging thanking us for our support in 2019. With a Maori theme (two of our staff are Maori) the fish hook represents strength, loyalty and consistency. 

Switching off.

My wife and I have been on holiday. Actually since leading a service on Christmas Eve I have only done fire service chaplaincy, with just one visit to the Brewery. We have not even attended the local Church and have not led any Church services. We are currently at a camp ground on the outskirts of the city of Christchurch enjoying a holiday, visiting a son and his kids here. We go back home later this week.
Shortly after New Year I had a phone call from the fire station and was told of a heap of duvets that I could offer to the Night Shelter. Fire fighters helped me to load them and I delivered them to the Shelter. The shelter has duvets for their beds, but hands out bedding to people setting up homes in boarding houses, houses or flats. The local firefighters' social club are running a raffle to raise money for Australian fire fighters who are impacted by the massive fires there. They were looking for donations of various prizes, and I re-posted a request on face book. One of the women at the brewery I visit, read my post and went around the various departments asking the leaders if they would donate. I visited the brewery and came up with probably more than a thousand dollars worth of prizes which I handed on to the social club at the fire station.  I love it that people see me as a conduit for their generosity and they want to support the causes I support.
Before we left for our holiday, I had a phone call from an officer at the fire station telling me that a couple of the firefighters had suffered the loss of a parent. One of them I knew was about to happen, but the other was a surprise to me. A woman firefighter's dad had died. I touched base with her, and pretty soon after she rang again, and asked if I would lead the funeral. I met with the family and loved the experience of suddenly meeting new people and the privilege of being let into their family history and their life. On the Saturday that we were to leave on our holiday, at midday, I led the funeral where there was a good turn out of off duty and on duty fire fighters who came to support their colleague. For a number of reasons it was not an easy funeral to lead but I managed to do it. There was a free flowing open time and a reflection time when people wrote on the casket. I was getting worried about the length of time it took but wanted a relaxed atmosphere. I ended up ad libbing the last part of the ceremony, to make it suit the atmosphere that had been created. We loaded the casket into the hearse and two Maori women, friends of the family, stepped forward and shared a Waiata.  (funeral song/addressing the deceased - involving expressive actions.) I didn't know it was going to happen and I don't think the family did, but it was a great way to conclude the ceremony.  I received very good feedback from people. I breathed a sigh of relief and wandered toward a group of fire fighters. "How do you do that?!" they asked. "It was so well done! How do you hold it together?" Handshakes and even hugs followed.  I left feeling I had ministered not just to the family, but everyone. "God" really didn't get much of a mention, but there was none the less a sacred presence, a sense of solidarity and depth to the event. I am often tempted to finish chaplaincy and truly retire, but then this deep sense of connection happens, and I say to myself, "While I can still make a difference for good, should I really stop?"
I have enjoyed taking a step back from taking Church services though. I consider myself a progressive Christian... hanging very loosely to Traditional Christian doctrine by a very thin thread, but still in love with Jesus. I find it hard leading in a traditional Church. There are keen evangelical and old traditional people there. I try to push the limits without causing harm, but I find the exercise very taxing when I take my two services a month. It has been good to switch off, and I must admit once again ask, "Maybe it is time to stop?"  I am reading a big book by author Karen Armstrong called "The lost art of Scripture." It really gives a run down on the history, experience and scriptures of various religions from India, China, Arabia, Jerusalem and Christianity. It is very detailed and one of the reasons I brought the book with me on holiday, is that I have found it hard to concentrate on it during normal life. It doesn't suit just short blocks of reading. It has raised for me the question of the whole place of religion in life. It seems to be the record of humankind's search for the sacred and important essence in life. There are similarities in the search and experiences of the religions. While it instructs me in detail about the various religions' development, it is prompting me to ask, "What form should the ongoing spiritual search and journey take in this the 21st century?"  The current Church life is no longer real in western society. What could improve it? It is prompting lots of thinking, even though I am finding it difficult to read. That thinking prompts the urge to continue to do something about it. 
I received an email asking if I would lead our local Church worship on February 2nd. I have agreed and I looked up the set scripture readings for the day. It is Micah 6. 
 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God."          
A very powerful passage from the Old Testament.  The gospel reading is from Matthew 5 ... the beatitudes ... 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. etc" 

Another very powerful, yet challenging passage. Already my mind is at work on how to structure the service....

So I guess for 2020 I'll still be leading worship services in Church... 

But just now I am enjoying a break from Church.
I enjoyed a mountain bike ride through the forrest near the camp site.

Lyttelton harbour near Christchurch. Damaged in the earthquakes but delightful to visit now.

This bus stop nearby the campground has significance. 52 years ago late at night my girlfriend and I sat in it around New Years day. We were attending a Church youth camp. She asked me, "Do you love me?" I asked her, "What is love?" and proceeded to rubbish any definition she came up with. She ended up nearly in tears, but we have survived and celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in 2019. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year.

"Happy" New Year?
I am never sure of this greeting. "Happy" seems somehow flippant. Does "New Year" refer to just New Year's Eve celebrations or the whole new year - 2020? 
As we enter 2020 there is much uncertainty. We in NZ will havre an election later in the year. I think there has been progress as a country in a lot of areas with the present coalition Government, but they have also made mistakes. I fear there might be a change and would be discouraged if the National Party came in with more right wing policies. In the USA of course there is the continuing saga with Donald Trump. What will happen in the Senate? What uncertainties/dramas will face the country there and indeed the world? What will happen in their election? We are facing continuing climate change issues with many in leadership denying human contribution. Today in Dunedin NZ we had an orange hue that is the result of massive fires all over our neighbouring country, Australia. (We are quite a distance away) This is happening now and has started earlier than their usual "fire season". Some say it and the droughts they battle are the result of climate change. So as we enter the New Year, 2020 we can say with the hymn writer "change and decay in all around I see". 

So dear reader, whoever you are, where ever you are, I wish you a wholesome, healthy, love filled 2020. May we all recognise we belong together in this journey in life. May we be free to "live fullylove wastefully, and dare to be all that each of us has the capacity to be.” Bishop Spong.

"God's" future?
Today, New Years Day, we were invited to have lunch with friends from our local wee (Scottish for "little" - Dunedin was founded by Scots.) Church. It was a warm friendly event. We belong to a mostly elderly fragile congregation, and the three families at lunch were the younger members.  Conversation and discussion got on to how we best build up the Church and work to "be the Church".  Amongst the three families represented there was diversity of opinion and perspective. One big issue that faces our societies is the place and nature of "religion" or "God" in life? What an interesting journey life is. I hope your journey in 2020 is fulfilling and meaningful.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A bad weekend..... with some good.

The old man falls out of a tree
On the first Saturday afternoon of December we went down to the Church to help one of the younger guys. He had decided to put a star on top of a tree that grows right by the Church, a star that will light up at night to celebrate Christmas. I found myself up a ladder against the tree, a high folding step ladder type that opens out. Suddenly the ladder gave away under me and I desperately grabbed hold of the greenery to slow my fall to the ground. I slid sideways down the tree and rolled onto the ground, glancing off my wife and letting out an expletive as I went. I was bruised and embarrassed but OK. The younger couple treated me as if I was an old man. This was emphasised when I was at the fire station a few days later telling the story. A woman fire officer laughed. "What were you doing up a ladder at your age?" she exclaimed. "Who do you think you are - a teenager?" she continued. She then pointed out that I had 6 fire trucks, ladders and crews at my disposal and I ought to have called upon them to help. I HATE being told I am old! 

Wagging Church...
Then on the Sunday we decided not to go to Church. We find the minister who was to lead the service that day really turns us off. His style, the way he presents his services and what seems to us, "laziness" or indifference has me sitting there trying to look supportive (he's a colleague after all) but inside getting angry. (At one service the lady sitting behind me could read my frustration that I thought I was hiding, and reached forward to rub my shoulder sympathetically.) So we "wagged" church last Sunday. We headed off for a short ride to a small country settlement north of Dunedin for lunch at a little craft brewery there. On the Friday I had noticed my van running hot so had fixed a problem with the radiator cap on the Saturday. After enjoying our lunch in the country setting, we left the brewery to go back into Dunedin to shop at the supermarket. This involved driving over a hilly area, with two steep climbs to traverse. Negotiating the hills, I noticed the temperature gauge signalling a very hot motor, but on the downhill it seemed to cool. We shopped and then headed for home, about a 12k drive on a relatively flat road. After just a couple of kilometres the motor lost power and stopped. It had overheated. We phoned the Automobile Association emergency number and a truck came, picked up our van and delivered it and us home. Stripping the driver's seat out, I investigated the motor, and found a hose with a hole in it which had been leaking coolant. On Monday I repaired it, but upon starting the motor found that it was in a bad way - I had terminally damaged it - the motor was running irregularly and oil was pouring out of the front end.  Only a rebuild or a new motor would make it good again - both would be expensive. We ended up purchasing another vehicle to replace the van. My van, which I have so enjoyed, which has been so reliable and handy, waits in our drive to be disposed of.  I feel sad and sorry. If I had been more attentive, more responsive and not so careless, it would not have happen. An otherwise still useful vehicle will probably go to the wreckers because of my neglect! We have lost money (which we do not have an in abundance anyway) but there is also the sense that it was avoidable and a waste. I have not been able to really appreciate our purchased vehicle, because I deeply wish we did not have to buy it in the first place. 

Not all was bad...
On the Saturday morning I was invited to attend the Dunedin area St John Ambulance Cadet prize giving. As St John chaplain I had a ceremonial role to play in accepting the flag as it was paraded in by the flag party. I am encouraged by St John Cadet events. It is a growing youth movement and it was delightful seeing these young people receiving their awards. As we waited for proceedings to begin a family arrived. They live not far from the Sawyers Bay Church, have quite a number of children, a sort of blended family. The parents have taken extra's into their family. We have had contact with them through our a couple of community-building activities we have at Church. A week before I had spent quite some time playing pool with a boy from the family at our Friday night "Rumpus Room". Four of the girls attended the prize giving all dressed in their St John uniform and as part of the official party I watched them receiving their awards. It was delightful afterward when they raced up to me and showed me their awards, and talked with me as if I was a kindly old uncle. I enjoyed chatting to their dad also. I felt it was all worth it, that I was, in some way, an encouragement in people's lives. That is a privilege for this old man.  

Our new vehicle. 
The poor old neglected van.
Some views from my walk around the block.


Friday, November 15, 2019

United Fire Brigades Association Medal.

"A presentation."
I had a phone call a month or so ago from the chief at the Dunedin Fire station. I have been Workplace Support Chaplain there for 25, nearly 26 years. The chief asked if I had a few moments to talk and then proceeded to tell me they wanted to give me a presentation, because I "had been such a nice guy and all." He had phoned to settle on a date for this. Well we made a date and told me to invite the family. I was nervous about this and learned that it was to be a medal. Fire fighters get a gold star medal if they have served 25 years, but my few hours every week should not amount to the same sort of thing. Then I learned it was to be the "Honorary Chaplains medal", and upon checking it out on line, realised that there had only ever been 6 of them given.
In 2003 I had received a significant honour from the Governor General of NZ, the "Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit" medal. It was strange that with this one I was more nervous than that one leading up to the event. It was to be an afternoon tea, I could invite family and friends and fire fighters and retired fire fighters (Gold Watch) would be there. What would I wear? How many would be interested in coming? I was expected to give some sort of speech, what would I say? NZ is a very secular country and chaplains in fire stations are generally a thing of the past. Do I deserve this honour? So my mind went. I invited my daughter and husband; two of my brothers and their wives were keen to come and the CEO and office manager from "Workplace Support" of the Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission. (The agency that I work for)
The ceremony
We arrived and we as a family were escorted to the "Mess" (the dining room area of the station) and had to wait for final preparations to be made upstairs in the social hall. I could see retired fire fighters arriving. In time we were led upstairs and as I entered the crowded social hall the room erupted into applause. I did not know where to look. Afternoon tea took place first then we were called to order and the "ceremony" was to start. The chief talked about the honour and spoke of why I was receiving it. He told of how before he came his experience of chaplaincy was not positive so that when he arrived seven years ago, he thought he would get rid of the chaplain. Then he met me and saw me operating and decided against it. He talked of my ability to listen and help and how he discovered that the fire fighters actually enjoyed talking with this chaplain. I was invited forward, my wife was invited forward and given a bunch of flowers then the medal was pinned to my chest. Others were invited to speak. One a retired officer, a hard, straight talking came up first. He said "David Brown is the genuine article!" He went on that everyone knows of hypocritical Christians, "there's a heap of them out there" but Dave is a "real Christian, straight up". He had known me for nearly 26 years, he was not religious, but he praised me for who I was and how I worked. There were others and then I had to respond.
It was all very embarrassing. I thanked them for the friendship, support and growth I had experienced and affirmed their commitment to serve the public and their support of each other.  I finished with Dr Albert Schweitzer quote, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." I thanked them deeply for the honour.
Really warm conversations
Then I mixed and mingled and was completely blown away by the one-on-one comments people made as they warmly shook my hands. It was a very special time for me. The retired guys enjoyed catching up with me and said some nice things. Some wanted me to join the group they have which restores old fire engines. I'd love to but you cannot do everything. Chaplaincy is a hard role because you give yourself, and it stands or falls on your openness, your character and approach to people. Your personality, genuineness and being are always on the line. I am basically shy and wonder why people could "like" me? This was a very affirming experience.
Receiving the medal

Ben says, "Dave's a genuine Christian - no BS."

The deputy reckons "We have the best chaplain."

Me responding - I warned them about the dangers of letting a preacher speak.
With my NZ Order of Merit medal added.
The family members out for dinner after. It was a double celebration. My son-in-law had received quite a prestigious national prize for "Excellence in teaching". He teaches chemistry at Otago University. My daughter took the photos.

A photo the local paper took of fire fighters and me.

Looking old and awkward about the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Prepare to die right through life.

She wants to talk with you.
Yesterday morning we had a phone call from the sister of a woman who was in our old Church many years ago. She was a regular attender, then she moved out to a township on the edge of our city. She informed me that she would not be coming into our services and began attending another church nearer her home. Once when she visited my office she told me that this new Church was "more spiritual" than our Church, whatever that meant. That was thirty years ago.  Now the sister who was talking to me on the phone told me that she had terminal cancer and her time was getting close. She had asked to see me. She had attended other Churches, but she wanted someone she could talk freely to, and so she chose me. "Do you make pastoral calls out here?" she asked. "I'm retired" I said, with the unspoken implication that "these days I am not making pastoral calls". "I know." She responded, "but she is unsettled and you're the one she wants to talk with." I said yes, and made arrangements to visit her today. This sort of call always stresses me out, but more so these days. "Am I up to such a visit? Will I say the right things? Why me?" My wife and I got talking about when, if ever we will be allowed to retire? Will we have to move out of town?
I visited and it went OK
So today I went out to visit her and found her jaundiced, sitting in a chair with a morphine pump keeping her free of pain. She looked very much older than her years, but there was still a warmth, and "pleased to see you" look in her eyes. She smiled and we fell into the warm familiarity we used to have thirty years ago. We talked about life, about death and about the issues she was concerned about. I held her hands and we prayed.  I had been stressed about it, but as I shared with her I felt a relaxed confidence and freedom. Such visits are often a lovely experience. There is no play acting, no BS, just basic honesty. I came away wondering why I got so stressed in the first place.
Prepare to die...
I was working on creating a wheelbarrow out of broken bits yesterday afternoon and stewing on the visit ahead. I wondered about what she could be unsettled about. That got me thinking about death and my experiences in hospital earlier this year when a number of doctors, one after another, warned me of possible terminal outcomes, if they found cancer. I thought about my reaction then. I found I could look back on life with a good deal of gratitude, a sense of fulfilment, and while I would not want to die, I felt I had enjoyed a good life, and could not feel that I had been short changed.  But that feeling of being at ease with my possible demise grew out of purposeful living. I was grateful that I had received great examples of good healthy values and purposes in life. These had led me into constructive living and relationships. I got to thinking that in a sense we cant wait for impending death to prepare for death. We prepare for death by the very quality of our day to day living. When we live well, I suspect it is easier to die well. (I hasten to add that this, for me, has nothing to do with any eternal reward or punishment. - Whatever happens or does not happen, its really about how we feel about our living as we prepare to "let go".)
Steve Covey in his book "The seven habits of successful people." suggested that we can sort out our basic principles by imagining our funeral and thinking about what we would like various people to be able to say about us - our family, our workmates, people in our community and our friends. When we decide that, then we can more clearly see our values. Once they are decided, we be sure to build them into our living. I've never done that exercise, but it does make the point that we prepare for death best, by truly living by the deep values we hold. When death comes, as it inevitably will, we can then look back with few regrets. 

A couple of days ago we drove north for two hours to spend time with my brother and his wife. Throughout the drive I was struck by the impressive scenery - this was one view I often would have missed.
On the way home we stopped on the foreshore to eat fish and chips. I love the light hitting the clouds in the late evening sun. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

We are one with nature.

Genesis has us as a part of the natural world.
In the second creation story in Genesis in the Bible, the myth has God forming "man out of the dust of the ground." In this way the story tells us we are part of the nature we live in, made from the mud!

St Francis of Assisi 
St Francis of Assisi is well known for three things. He took a vow of poverty and cared for the poor and the needy. He had a love of animals. Tradition had it that he talked with the animals. Churches sometimes have a "bring your pet to Church" day when they celebrate St Francis. But thirdly, he identified with the natural world. He wrote as if the natural world was part of his family. One man commenting on the words of the hymn he wrote below said, "For a man who never married, Francis had a big family." - Sister moon - Brothers wind and air - Sister water - etc.

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory, honour and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather by which you, Lord, uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.
Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colours.
Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of you; and for those
who bear sickness and weakness in peace and patience
- you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death, whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.
-- St. Francis of Assisi
Richard Rohr
I have just finished reading Richard Rohr's book, "The Universal Christ". I find Richard Rohr easier to listen to than to read. His active mind seems to dart from one thing to the other. But Richard Rohr sees creation as the original "incarnation". Creation, a blade of grass even, is an expression of God and a part of God's life. 
Tane Mahuta Guide.

Our passionate Kauri tree guide among her "family" - the NZ bush.

Plum blossom waiting for our return from holiday.

The woman in this photo was an inspiration. We have in Northland of New Zealand many forests with Kauri Trees. We visited recently and discovered a shop selling Kauri wood souvenirs made from Kauri wood that has been buried in swamp land, for 45,000 years and then dug up and used. It is mind boggling to think of. We also visited a famous big Kauri Tree named Tane Mahuta - "lord of the forrest". There has been a disease harming Kauri Trees so we had to wash our boots and stay on the track when we went to visit this mighty tree. There we met a guide who gave a talk about the tree and other trees around it. She was passionate about Tane Mahuta. This big tree was growing in the life time of Jesus. It has a big girth and in its foliage at the top of the tree, there are at least 150 other plants, some of them trees in their own right. She talked as if this mighty tree was her relative. She was delighted to tell us this tree was healthy, and passionate about the Kauri in New Zealand. She pointed out a tree behind her which was a her "baby", only 1500 years old and already taller than Tane Mahuta. (I was trying to photograph this tree when I had her in the picture, still passionately talking about her beloved trees.) They were, for her, part of her family, such was her spiritual connection with nature. 
Spiritual connection with nature.
I have experienced this connection. When tramping feeling at one with the bush, birds and brooks. I sometimes find myself talking to the plants beside the path, or a mountain daisy still blooming in the cold air of a mountain top, or even the hill I'm climbing. I have "my mountain" (Mount Cargill) I love to climb and enjoy its various moods. When I have chopped a tree down, I feel sad for taking its life and apologise. I love it when little fantail birds seem to follow you through the bush and I talk to them. When, in the past, I have killed animals for meat, I have done it with a deep reverence, and thanksgiving for a life given up for me. 
These days when our natural world seems under threat, I have enjoyed lately being reminded of our essential connection. It's a great experience to hold on to, it deepens our experience of life, and is important if we are going to be able to stop the destruction that's happening.  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Appreciation important....

"Please can you...." x 3
We returned home from our holiday on a Saturday evening. We did not go to our local Presbyterian Church that first Sunday. On the Monday we heard that a lady from our old Church had died on the Sunday evening. When I first heard, I thought, "I might be asked to conduct that funeral." It was not that I wanted to do it, but that our old church currently is without a minister, and her husband had expressed a wish that I take his funeral. All day Monday I half expected a call, and by the evening I relaxed, thinking that I had escaped the responsibility. First thing on Tuesday morning the Funeral Director rang, and asked if I could lead the funeral on Friday. I accepted the job and began making preparations. 
On the Wednesday evening I had a call from the Session Clerk of the local Church. There had been mix up in the preaching roster. The minister scheduled to lead the service was expecting her date was the next Sunday, so there was nobody able to lead the coming Sunday's church service. Would I step up to take it please? I thought of all the work involved in the funeral, the short amount of time for preparation and the fact that we were scheduled to pick up our daughter and husband at the airport during Church time and initially said, "No".  I explained why. She graciously said, "Don't give it another thought." but I picked up a hint of desperation in her voice. She was going to try the Interim Moderator, and technically speaking it was his problem. I hung up and then felt guilty. I thought, "No other minister is likely to be willing to lead the service on such short notice." I did not think our Interim Moderator would.  So I rang her back. I was right, he had not agreed to take it, so I agreed to lead it. 
While we were away we had received an email that told us of a congregational meeting that was to be held on the following Monday night, to think about the future of the Church. A representative of the Presbytery was going to facilitate it. Well a few minutes after I had agreed to lead the Sunday service I received a call from the Interim Moderator to say the facilitator had chosen not to do it (for reasons to do with Presbyterian hierarchy that I did not understand) would I please facilitate the night? I know that I am good at facilitating groups, so I agreed. Here I was a retired minister, back from holidays and within a few days I had ended up with responsibility for three substantial events! Also in the midst of all this I had a phone call asking me if I would accept "team leader" responsibilities in the chaplaincy organisation - they said "there was nobody else they thought suitable". 
I do not take leadership of such events lightly. Each funeral I put a lot of preparation into, with at least two sessions with the family involved, extra visitation and careful thought.  Every church service I lead I put a lot of preparation into. I do not use notes on the day, but I have written out and planned the service several times in preparation. I like to use songs, power points, video music and other readings to prompt thought on the topic. I have learned also that facilitation requires careful thought about the process for the session, and how to get everybody talking freely together. So, apart from my normal chaplaincy work, from Wednesday night until Monday night I worked full time, probably doing more hours than most people would do in a week. I was prepared to do that. It was all voluntary work with no payment involved. But I hated having to do stuff on short notice. I hate standing in front of people, with the feeling that you might not have prepared fully.  It was a period of intense stress for me. I did all three well but come the Tuesday morning after the congregational meeting, I was exhausted, and another busy week was starting.
Somehow disappointed...
All three events were not my responsibility, yet I had accepted them to help people out in a desperate situation.  I did all under intense pressure at short notice. The thing that disappointed me was that I received no real thanks for stepping up! It was just assumed that I would! I felt used! We have since been quite busy doing other things for the church, and today included the Annual General meeting for the Church. (e.g. at 9p.m. last night we finished the process of preparing, painting and installing a new door in the church hall.) Tonight it all seemed to catch up on me, and I felt used, taken for granted and depressed. 

I do not do things to receive "thanks".  Till my dying day I will probably still say "yes" to requests for help.  But a bit of gratitude expressed helps you to feel better about the stress involved. When somebody expresses thanks for going the extra mile, it just helps your demeanour. It means that somebody noticed the extra effort involved. When those who knew it was short notice and extra service above and beyond the normal, did not recognise it with appropriate gratitude, I felt just used and abused. You're already tired, so it can easily dishearten you and bring a level of depression. 

I hope I remember to say thanks to those who go the extra mile for me.  A lesson learned.