Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Need to change the heading.
I needed to change the heading of my blog. The heading referred to "an over 60 year old...", but that "over 60 year old" is now an over 70 year old. I have just had my "three score and ten" birthday, which is quite a landmark. Unintentionally I have been celebrating my birthday for about a week. It was on a Thursday and my wife presented me with a few personal presents such as a coat, a book and a wallet.  On that day we travelled 3 hours north of Dunedin and stayed the night in a "boutique apartment" with a spa bath and four poster bed. The next day we headed north again to the resort town of Hanmer Springs. My New Zealand based children had rented two houses next to one another and our daughter and son-in-law from Dunedin went up; our son and his family from Christchurch travelled about an hour and a half to Hanmer; and our son and family from Wellington caught the ferry across Cook Strait, and traveled a few hours south to Hanmer. There were twelve of us, including four active grandchildren. (We missed our son and family in Edinburgh) We stayed Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night enjoying the scenery, forest walks and hot springs of Hanmer. It was a special family time. On the Monday we all went in various directions to our homes again. My wife and I drove the nearly 500k back to our house in Dunedin on the Monday.
I was aware that my older brother and his wife, who live in Australia, were traveling through NZ and were planning to be paying a quick visit to Dunedin during the week. With phone calls backwards and forwards, my youngest brother and his wife invited us to join them, and my older brother, for an evening at their new house about three quarters of an hour north of Dunedin. On the Tuesday evening we drove North again to go to this "pot luck" meal. When I got there I found that my sister and her partner had traveled about four hours from Christchurch, and another brother and his wife had traveled two hours to be there. All of my siblings in one place to celebrate my seventieth birthday! It is very seldom we can all be together. We had a great night of memories, laughter and generally catching up.
At the meal we got to talking about "my" Mount Cargill, a hill that overlooks Dunedin. We shared memories, and my older brother said something like, "Of course you will not be walking up it these days, Dave." It was a statement, not a question. I felt stunned, and was going to object, but remembered that because of injury, sickness, busyness and perhaps laziness, it had been a long time since I had climbed my mountain. While I have had more than my share of various sicknesses lately, and still have artificial plumbing in place, it never occurred to me that my climbing days would be over. At 4 p.m. on the Wednesday I climbed my mountain. I saw it as a fitting end to my week long birthday celebrations. I loved doing it, and in spite of my lack of practice, I climbed it easily, perhaps only 3 minutes longer than my average time. My birthday celebrations were not over. We run a games night at the local Church on Friday night and a young 6 year old and her little brother came up to me. They both had made Birthday cards for me and presented me with a cake of chocolate.
Reflection on turning 70.
I had started writing this post in Hanmer, and it was going to be a reflection on "Have I wasted my life by investing it in the Church?" It was likely to be a bit of a negative perspective. That may come, but while walking my mountain I decided to change it. At 70 years of age I am simply thankful.
I am thankful for my parents and the people around me as I grew up. I had people who were good role models and built a good foundation for my life. Looking back as an adult, each of them were floored and if I sat with them now, I perhaps would want to argue with them on some of their perspectives. But they essentially loved me and guided me, to enable me to be equipped to handle life.
I am thankful for the various experiences I had growing up. I had experiences of living in a full house, with four siblings and often a boarder or two thrown in. I had experiences of farm life during holidays. We often took part in DIY projects around the house. I enjoyed being a plumbing apprentice and learning a trade. Working on cars as a teenager was an incredible problem-solving learning experience. Being part of youth groups and taking leadership roles. Even the bad experiences, I am thankful for. We were a relatively poor family and had to learn to "make-do" and enjoy life without access to lots of material pleasures. My father died when I was a young teenager. It was a traumatic experience, but looking back, an incredibly maturing, growing time in my life.
I am thankful for my theological training, the colleagues I came to know, the teachers and the challenges involved. I am thankful for the experience of living in another country, learning to appreciate it, but growing in my appreciation of my home country also.
I am thankful for my wife and family, and the journey so far. There have certainly been challenges, but also there have been lots of achievements. We have had a good partnership and journey together. I have enjoyed being part of groups - the drop-in centre we ran, Habitat for Humanity, the Night Shelter group. I have enjoyed nearly 25 years of workplace chaplaincy, enjoying fire fighters, paramedics and brewery workers.
I have enjoyed heaps of personal growth, changing perspective and deepening understandings. I find that even at my age, I still feel young and appreciate the adventure of growing as a person, looking at new perspectives and trying new things.
As people say, "long story short" - my 70 years have been pretty enriching, fulfilling and worthwhile living and for that I am deeply, deeply thankful. If you have been part of that..... THANKYOU.
Snow capped mountains encircle Hanmer Springs.
We drove up the centre of the South Island, the scenery is beautiful. 
Our youngest grandchild enjoys clambering on a statue of a dog, shaped out of a tree stump.
We enjoyed two bush walks with the grandchildren.
"Nan" (my wife) joins her to discuss the dog. 
Our second bush walk - NZ is a beautiful country.
Family members meandering through the parklands.
My son and three grandchildren explore a creek.
The five Brown kids and their partners. The men on the left and head of the table are the four brothers. The lady at the front on the right is our sister.

I love the bush on "my" Mount Cargill.
The cairn on top of my mountain 
Some parts are rather steep, but I am pleased to be able to walk them.
My second birthday cake.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Prostate issues revisited.

Here we go again...
Since about 2011 I have had various experiences with prostate issues. I once wore a catheter and bag for about 12 months before an unsuccessful operation in 2013. Then I self catheterised until a successful operation in 2014. Since then, as far as I felt, things have been fine. Early this year, however, I injured my back and the doctor in the Emergency Department checked out my bladder for retention. I was, according to her, retaining too much fluid. She referred me to Urology at the hospital and their investigations confirmed her findings. They wanted me to go back to a catheter or at least to self catheterise. I debated with them. "I am healthy." I argued. "You could get infections though?" they replied. "But in my experience as soon as you start poking things up there, I WILL get infections. Leave it alone, we'll keep an eye on blood tests and if they start being a concern, then we'll do something." (I found I could not self catheterise anyway.) The last appointment I had they decided to put a camera "up there", and they told me I will require further surgery. They warned me that this procedure may cause discomfort and some blood in the urine for the next few days. 
A holiday that got extended...
The next day we were leaving town to go to Wellington (NZ's capital city) to look after our grandchildren there for three days, then have two nights "rest" before coming home. On that day I learned that a man I knew quite well had died of a heart attack, and his parents asked if I could take the funeral. So we arranged for it to happen a week later, a Tuesday, knowing we would return home on the Sunday before. For the three days we were looking after the children I felt that "discomfort" and I began having trouble passing a decent amount of urine. I had feelings of being cold. Then on the Friday night I woke in the middle of the night shaking uncontrollably, getting hot, then cold and with a blinding headache. Next morning I went to the emergency department of Wellington hospital. My temperature was very high, my pulse also was very fast... I was unwell. They admitted me, put a catheter and bag in and began intravenously feeding me antibiotics, saying that 24 hours should let me still catch the plane back to Dunedin and be well enough to take the funeral. But after 24 hours my condition had not changed and I had to phone the family and get them to arrange someone else to take the funeral. I stayed in hospital for another three days, and then flew home, catheter and bag still in place, and a long course of antibiotic pills. I had been very sick apparently. 
Back to the future...
I have got the message from Dunedin hospital that I will be wearing a catheter and bag until I get surgery! (Heaven knows when that will happen?) I am learning all over again how to cope. On the first night at home I kicked the tubes and it came apart, so we had a wet bed to clean up. Lesson learned. On the third day home I decided I needed to get back and visit chaplaincies. I climbed into my van and headed off, then I felt my shoe filling with pee. I had knocked the tap on the brake pedal of the van. I have now got it worked out, but it is not easy. I led a funeral the other day and was conscious as I stood in front of everybody that I had this apparatus in my trousers. I cancelled my attendance at a conference in August. I could not imagine coping with it all staying in a hotel with others. It takes longer to shower and dress. It often is uncomfortable. ... and I could go on about the inconveniences of it all. In hospital I had "urosepsis" which sounded scary when I read about it on line. It was no wonder the doctors looked concerned when I was not responding. I looked up the bug that they say caused it and learned that it is a bug that is almost always encountered in hospital or health care facilities and usually the troubles happen through contaminated medical equipment being used. I was not happy when I heard that, and my already low confidence in the Dunedin Hospital Urology procedures, went lower! I remember my warning to them, "If you start poking things up there, I WILL get infections." The impact on us and others over that time was quite disturbing.
But I enjoyed hospital...
In hospital I was sick, I had trouble getting sleep, the cold porridge and soggy toast for breakfast was ghastly, but weirdly, I did enjoy it. I loved the compassion of the doctors and more so the nurses. I met some lovely people, and really appreciated their care. They were simply quality people. Also there were texts and messages from people in my chaplaincies, expressing concern, best wishes and a desire to help. I laughed. On facebook I had an update ending with "Wish me luck." A hard shot guy at the brewery responded with, "Luck's got nothing to do with it, just get your sad sorry lard arse back here!" I responded with "I love you too Ken." because really it was his way of saying, "I am concerned about you." Fire fighters sent messages of concern, encouragement and offers of help. A forklift driving woman from the brewery messaged me offering to do anything that needed done at my house then said, "This is a bit awkward, but do you need money?" I felt very treasured and supported by the people I am chaplain to, and that has continued with people still offering help, if I need it.  I enjoyed the quality people I met in hospital and the ongoing support I have received. I am indeed privileged. 
A nice encounter...
In  the hospital there was a quietly spoken Pacific Island woman who delivered meals. I committed myself to say to everyone who served me there, a warm "thank you" for whatever they did. I applied this rule to the specialists, the nurses, through to the cleaning staff, and this lady who delivered my meals always got thanked. I noticed how long her hours were and chatted to her about that saying, "I hope they pay you well." On my final day she had asked me my preferences for meals. I told her, but by lunch time they had told me I could leave and I waited in the lounge room for my wife to pick me up. The "meal deliverer" came through delivering lunch to rooms nearby. I told her I was leaving so would not need the meals for the day, and thanked her again for looking after me during my stay. She went on her way down the corridor. After a brief time I heard her calling, "David!" and she rushed into the room with a meal, put it on the table in the middle of the room, lined up a chair and simply said, "Eat! ... before you go!" With a wave and a smile she left the room. I enjoyed the connection. .... in my experience, most people are beautiful people. I listen the other day to a You tube clip of Louis Armstrong singing, "What a beautiful world." and I said, "Amen, Lou, amen!"

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Photos of our trip to Edinburgh...

We have been on a five week trip to Edinburgh. We left on May 21st, and arrived home on June 24th. We stopped over, going there and back, for one night in Singapore. Both times we arrived early in the morning and left during the night hours of the next day, so we had time to do some exploring of Singapore.
We spent most of the time with our son and family in Edinburgh. A lot of that time playing and mucking around with our two grandsons, joining in their family life, and incorporating doing some DIY with my son.
While I posted in Edinburgh, I could not master the technology so that I could include photos. So today's post is just some of the photos from our trip.
On the trip to London, enjoying the high walkway between the giant "trees" in the Singapore Gardens.

This garden dome in Singapore Gardens was fantastic... so big, so many different plants from everywhere.

My better half checking out some details.

We had to take several photos.. these two Edinburgh grandsons are perpetual motion.

Second attempt. Notice the proud NZ word on the lounge wall. "Aroha" is Maori for "Love".

Pretending we are rich, swimming in the pool in the hotel in Singapore.

I was thrilled to be able to climb up Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh. This is looking toward Carlton Hill.

The summit of Arthurs Seat. 36 minutes from the bottom to the top with a diversion to Anthony's chapel and a toilet break. It felt good after having my back problems and I still have a numb foot.

Tollgate in Edinburgh - Now a pub, but here many who fought for freedoms we take for granted were imprisoned and roughly treated. It is my "symbol" of the many reminders throughout the UK of the road to the civilisation and society we enjoy today.

Daniel, (our son) Magda (his wife) and Leon and Xavier our grandsons. The reason for our visit to Edinburgh.

War memorial in George Square, Glasgow.

Jean on the high walk way in Singapore.

Inside the garden Dome.

The highest indoor waterfall in the world. 

Xavier, the youngest of our two Edinburgh grandsons.

Cairnmillar Castle an easy walk from where we were staying.

Edinburgh museum - on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Perth Bridge built in the 1700's - quite impressive.

St John's Church in the middle of Perth, Scotland. It was once Catholic, but John Knox preached a sermon against Idolatry, and a riot broke out against the Catholics. Now it is Church of Scotland. 

Anthony's chapel part way up Arthur's seat in Edinburgh.



The summit of Arthurs seat.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Finding hope when life is dark.

“A fool says in his heart, there is no God.” In my last post I expressed offence at the church noticeboard which had the above quotation (from Psalm 14 or again in Psalm 53) on the front of the church. Since then I have had cause to think further about this quotation, and kind of think that from some perspective, reworded, it highlights a truth.

On Facebook there was a report of a survey of teen suicide in OECD and EU countries. (15 -19 year olds) Compared to other countries, NZ has the worst figures. We have 15.6 per hundred thousand people. That is twice as much as the USA and 5 times as much as Great Britain. I am currently staying in Scotland and realise that we live in a great country in NZ. In my view, more space, better lifestyle, and healthier environment. But why the terrible teen suicide figures? Suicide figures for adult males in our country are quite high also. I am staying with my son in Edinburgh, and yesterday he sadly learned of the suicide of a friend he had when he was a younger man, who he had kept in touch with from a distance. He was stunned.

Why is this happening? Is it because of our individualism? Is it because of our values? Why do we not have resilience that can see us through tough times? Although it is not tough times in itself. Many have all they seem to need in life, and friends apparently? (I was once called in to be available at a workplace where there had been what had been seen as a critical incident. The National HR department had thought it necessary. Chatting informally to the local manager she said she had come from a country where there was always the periodic bombings and civil war. She commented that she had learned just to get on with life, for her New Zealanders did not know what real difficulties were. “You have it so easy here. This is no critical incident.” she commented.) So why are there so many who lose hope? Where is our resilience?

I am not unfamiliar with depression or even suicidal thoughts. There have been times in my life when I have contemplated it. There is a big concrete buttress on the way down the harbour toward our home. At times in the past I have been so depressed, stressed, exhausted or disappointed that I have looked at that and thought, “Maybe I should drive at speed into it?” Or there have been other moments when I have been driving that I just felt like crashing off the road. One time it was quite late in the evening when I left my Church office. I felt so disappointed and down that instead of going home I drove at speed, over the motorway north of Dunedin for nearly 40 miles before parking up in the dark at a beach front for about ten minutes. I had no idea what I planned to do, just somehow could not take life/work any more and wanted out. Family were wondering where I was but I turned my phone off. Eventually I turned back and sheepishly drove home. I said very little even to my wife, slept on it, and picked myself up the next day, growling about the waste of petrol. (I find I have very few people I can open up to. I tend to be the sort of person that goes away by myself and stews on things. Sometimes people trying to get me to talk only exasperates things. I know few who would understand.) Though I have had my battles, I have always managed to pick myself up, and go on. How come I managed, where others I have known, and young people with tons of potential have suicided? What is the difference?

I have been thankful for my “faith”. Not so much that God rushed in and made it all go away. Deep in my being there is a commitment to following the way of Jesus. A commitment to try, with all my faults and weaknesses, to live constructively. This commitment began very early in my life and has only grown as years go by. In these dark moments it has been this that has pulled me through more than anything else. I know that if I “spat the dummy” and gave up on life, I would deny this deep core direction of who I am. ... “I have failed, but I must still try.” “There are no guarantees, I lack the skills, but I must at least keep doing my best.” This deep “faith” has been the source of my power to keep going.

The Psalm says, “A fool says in his heart there is no God.” I would not say that, but I would say that it “is wise to think deeply about where you are going in life, what your core values are, and keep updating that”. That would be the deeper truth I would take from that quote.  I suspect that many people live superficially, living from day to day, living for the moment, letting their senses direct their path. When the “poo hits the fan,” they have no deep compass point to pull them through. When I have been in a dark hole, this deep commitment has eventually emerged, and my inner compass has said, “keep going.” I kind of think that many of us drift through life without sorting out our deep compass point.

I have quoted him before, but the late Steve Covey suggests that to find our deep values, we imagine our funeral. Ask ourselves, “What would I like my workmates to be able say about me? ... my family? ... my community? My friends?” Covey says that in answering these questions, our deep values in life will emerge. Then, he says, we need to take them on board and keep reminding ourselves who we are.

It is wise to think about, and keep alive your core values or directions in life. They can give you resilience in the dark places. My mind thinks of words by Frankl, or Schweitzer, or other thinkers and writers. But I humbly share my experiences. I am distressed about suicide stats, people I know who have killed themselves and many, many people, who live like “sheep without a shepherd” and get themselves in a mess.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Offensive Church sign.

We have visited the city of Perth in Scotland. We tend to randomly wander around the places we visit.  I take an interest in the Churches, and what they look like to the passing public. Empty, unused or boarded up Churches send a message - “The Christian Faith is no longer relevant!” Churches would be better to pull the building down if they are left empty to rot. Many Churches have a very fortress like look, like they do not want you to come in. Sometimes the signs are so old looking that you wonder if in fact something still happens inside. Sometimes the sign is an A4 sheet of paper shoved in a noticeboard with times of worship and “All Welcome” underneath, in a very amateur looking way. I seem to think most basic computers and printers are capable of something more inviting than this. We who run Churches ought to look with dispassionate eyes at the street front of our buildings and ask ourselves about what sort of message it is sending? Someone has said, “Everything the Church does, or does not do, communicates!” What message are we sending by our street front look?
In Perth there were two Churches which had quite clear signage, but the message of the signs made me wonder how today’s secular people would reacte to them?
One said on a big draped banner,
                   “BY JESUS’ DEATH, WE ARE FORGIVEN!”
Now to a traditional Christian or a person who has attended Church, this might mean something. Somehow through what Christians call “the atonement” Jesus death enabled God to forgive us. There are various explanations of this, some are quite gross, others are just hard to comprehend. If we express doubt about it we are told to just have faith and “believe”. A traditional Christian could see the meaning of it, though I think few could explain it. I have studied theology and the New Testament all my adult life and I find the statement off putting. The best I could say is that Jesus life and death demonstrates the love at the heart of the universe, so I know full acceptance.... or something like that. But what does my brewery worker whose experience of Church is the odd funeral service they have to endure, make of it? What would my totally secular, anti religion fire fighter make of it? Or the mum with three kids in tow, struggling to keep them together as she rushes past the church wondering what and how she is going to cook dinner tonight? “By Jesus’ death I am forgiven? What for? Yelling at my kids? What the hell did I do to Jesus? Why do I need forgiven? I’m just doing the best I can, trying to raise my kids.” Most if they noticed it at all would just think “Religious gobbledygook.” and it would reinforce in their mind that religion is irrelevant.
Across the road another church had a professionally printed sign, though looking a bit tattered, quoting a biblical psalm.
“A FOOL SAYS IN HIS HEART THERE IS NO GOD!”
I know this is quoting scripture, but stuck on the outside of a church, out of context it is to me, offensive. The psalm was written thousands of years ago, in a different culture. It is a phrase taken out of a certain type of poetry. Confronting people in today’s world with that is offensive. It is often very hard for the best of us to believe in “God”. I recall a life long church attending grandfather, whose gifted teenage granddaughter was dying of cancer, shaking his head and saying to me almost in anger, “Is there a God?” Was he “a fool”? I have atheist friends, who are wise, thoughtful, compassionate people, and it seems cowardly and insulting for the church to blatantly post on its public notice board a sign essentially saying, “You’re a fool!” If you were having a conversation with them you would not dare say, “You’re a fool.” It would be considered aggressive, offensive and an insult. Why then paste it on the front of a church which is meant to promote a way of love? Again most thinking people, whether or not they were ‘believers’ would in my mind, be turned off a church with that sort of approach.
Everything the church does, or does not do, communicates. What does the front of your church say to the people passing by?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Job related PTSD

PTSD
Post traumatic stress is something that I have learned about as chaplain to the fire service and the local St John ambulance service. What can happen as part of this experience is that after attending some traumatic incident the emergency worker can find themselves sort of reliving that incident, and unable to move on. Sometimes they can wake up at night in a hot flush, with night mares, reliving the experience or something even worse. I have found that many emergency workers given time can help each other to work through the issues.
Other workers...
I have found that perhaps to a lesser extent, the stress of our work places means that workers in other jobs can have experiences similar to PTSD. I have heard of accountants waking up sweating about losing money in the numbers they are working on. When people retire the stress that they have been living under still emerges when they relax, or sleep. They have been living with stress for years with their responsibilities and the body and brain will not let them switch off. Sometimes they can even wake up worrying that they have nothing to stress about, they think they must have forgotten something they should be attending to.
Ministers
When I retired or when I went on holiday, such recurring dreams hit me. Sometimes I would be standing in front of a congregation in my dream, with nothing prepared! Sometimes it is a funeral setting and I have forgotten to prepare. There can be too unresolved grief. The minister has led so many funerals for people he has travelled with that he just feels an overwhelming sadness. Sometimes it is reliving incidents in the past.
Forty years accumulated stress.
When I retired I had been in ministry of some sort for over forty years. Ministry can be difficult. In any congregation there is a wide range of theological positions. In my last 27 year ministry I recall a young man vehemently saying to me that I was not a true Christian because of my perspective on the devil. Another rang up and told me I was not open to the Holy Spirit who, he said, was doing a new thing with the “Spiritual laughter” in church. (A fad which did not last long) A man complained that I did not push the second coming and what he saw as prophecy tell us when it will happen. (The millennium came and went without a hitch?) Then in any congregation there is a wide range of tastes in music. I often felt I was “piggy in the middle” as people complained to me about my choices. Every Sunday too, a progressive Christian thinking minister has to lead a service for people steeped in a different paradigm of the Christian faith. I felt the need to push people’s thinking, but at the same time in pastoral care, not causing too much pain by undermining their faith. Often I felt I compromised my own position. I sometimes almost felt a loss of integrity as I presented, and a lack of freedom to be myself. I got reminded by people, “Don’t forget the old people! They built this church.” “They have had to put up with lots of changes already!” Sometimes there were lively conversations about such positions, which hurt me more than I recognised. I had a dream for our inner city church that we could become a hub in the city, where life enriching community groups felt encouraged and supported. To some extent the dream became a reality. We did exciting things like community Christmas dinners; a drop in centre; partnering with new immigrants groups, sustainability groups, the local city council, the immigration department and other positive community service ventures. I was pleased that the leadership allowed these things to happen, though full support was not as forthcoming as could be. I actually took on an extra chaplaincy to help fund part of this community outreach.  There was one moment when I was asked by a community group if I would run a service, greatly needed in the city for vulnerable people. (still!) I did not have the necessary resources but a Christian social work agency was prepared to supply them, if we gave use of the facilities. It seemed a great step from my point of view. It would expand what we already offered, establish us as a more relevant, serving Christian community, but also it would make other programs we ran easier, because these people were disrupting them. I took it to the church leadership, and one man vehemently opposed the project.At one stage he was yelling at me! The others just looked at the floor and capitulated to him. I was angry, hurt and deeply disappointed. After that I made definite plans to retire. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When I retired for quite some time I had PTSD.
I would be woken up with a night mare, hot and flushed heart racing. It may have been back in my office being told I was not a Christian. Another maybe that leader screaming at me. Another arguing with my organist over hymns. Another would be waking up with deep sadness about what could/should have been achieved. Another might be deep guilt that I gave up. So the dreams went on, gradually decreasing.

We have moved on. We are now busy supporting another congregation in a voluntary capacity. We are doing similar community orientated ministries, and excited about the progress. But... nearly five years later, I am currently visiting my son and family in Scotland. We have switched off from our current work, playing with grandchildren, sightseeing in Edinburgh, and I have discovered that nightmares about ministry, particularly that final 27 years have emerged again. PTSD happens for people doing other work. Not just for emergency workers. Along the way I have talked it through with my supervisor. We wondered the other night if further counselling may be in order. We’ll see.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Two women of compassion.

Example one.
We are on a four week trip to visit our son and family in Edinburgh, Scotland. On a thirteen hour flight sitting next to us was an elderly woman nearly in her eighties. She seemed to be still in good health and quite fit. We learned that she had been a nurse in an emergency ward for much of her working life. Of course on such a long flight the subject of coping with the flight comes up. My wife told her that our doctor had given us a sleeping pill we could take to help us sleep to make the flight easier. This elderly lady said that she had thought of that option and was indeed offered it, but she chose not to. She gave her reason. “I recognise that I have skills that could be helpful in an emergency on the plane. If I had a sleeping pill and something happened I would not be at my best.” When my wife told me of this conversation I was full of admiration. At nearly eighty, this woman still felt a responsibility to be there for others if it was necessary. - I thought it was a pretty cool attitude to have.
Second example.
We headed from Dunedin, NZ to Auckland in the early evening of a Monday. At about midnight we flew from Auckland to Singapore, about a ten hour flight. We arrived at about 7 a.m. local time. We were transported to our hotel, and after a bit of a rest we explored a bit of the city. Later in the evening we went to bed. We were wakened in the night by construction work carrying on during the night on the building opposite. (A massive mobile crane working) The next day we explored Singapore again, with an afternoon visit to the Gardens by the Bay. After tasting the local food for dinner, at 10 p.m. we travelled to the airport, waiting to catch a plane to London. Going through security my wife’s carry on luggage was held up. She was taken aside and little steel nail clippers were found. I was then led away for my luggage to be checked more thoroughly. Then the woman checking me asked, “Where is your wife.” “I don’t know!” I snapped at her, “That guy took her away!” We were reunited and the offending nail clippers confiscated. We comforted each other by saying, at least we should be happy they are keeping the plane safe.
We took off at around 2a.m. headed for London, arriving there at about 8 a.m. London time after 13 hours. We stopped for coffee at Heathrow airport, and really tired now, found the bus centre, and caught the appropriate bus for the one and a half hour trip to Stanstead Airport. It was crowded with heaps of people passing through and poor facilities for the numbers it was coping with. Finally we got through security and had to rush down a long walk way to find gate 84. People pushed passed us. I was getting cranky. At one stage a guy rushed past me shoving my shoulder and I found myself lifting my hand in annoyance, wanting to shove him back.... but I resisted... just. My wife, who gets easily short of breathe was puffing and red faced. We arrived in the que before they shut the gate. Jean wiped the sweat from her brow. I looked at her, she was completely exhausted, standing there puffing. But she was distracted. A young father looking after a baby and a young boy was just ahead, Jean was smiling at the boy. We went through the gate and waited yet again in a stairway leading to the tarmac and our plane. The young father was trying to strap his baby girl into a car seat, hold on to his luggage and keep his adventurous son close by. My wife seeing his predicament engaged the boy in friendly chatter, and smiled and chatted with the little girl. Then looking at the young father asked, “How are you going to manage? Will you need help? We could help?” “Whaaat?” I said under my breathe, “We are going to be struggling to get you up the steps to the plane!” The young man said he had it all worked out, but my wife continued to offer our help. “Just yell if you need us.” We got on the plane and I found myself helping the little boy find row 21. As I settled in my seat I could not help but admire my wife. 70 years old, exhausted after days travelling, with very little sleep, and physically drained, she was still filled with compassionate empathy for this young man and his children. I, on the other hand, was just focused on me and the crowds were just a nuisance. She is the real deal, compassionate when the going gets tough.