Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday simmerings

A busy week...
This last week has been busier than normal. We have been collecting on the streets and outside super markets for the Night Shelter.  I did not really have a day off last Monday so it has also seemed long. I hate taking pills and my latest doses of anti-biotics, along with other concoctions to keep my blood pressure down seem to be knocking me around a bit. I finished a service at an elderly person's rest home by mid-afternoon today and seemed to just collapse on my bed in a deep sleep for about an hour. There have been some good stories though.
Four delightful teenage girls.
I received an email a couple of weeks ago from some pupils of a Catholic Secondary School. These girls had been on a "Street Retreat" doing some learning relating to the needs of vulnerable people in Christchurch. They came back to Dunedin and one of their parents directed them to me, telling them that I work amongst the vulnerable in Dunedin. I finally got to meet them on Wednesday and we talked a little bit about what they could do. Upon hearing that the Night Shelter was in the middle of a street appeal these four girls offered to collect on Thursday. They were out there on the streets collecting for the homeless, which I thought was neat. They then asked for three buckets and having warned their school mates on Thursday, they took the buckets around classrooms on Friday delivering them back to the church. I meet with them this Tuesday to see what else they can do for the Night Shelter and our drop-in centre. It warms the heart of this old man to meet such thoughtful teenagers, they are delightful. Already a couple of my Night Shelter Trust friends have dubbed them, "Dave's girls!"
"I knew him before he was famous!"
I was a good boy on Tuesday morning and did what people try to get me to do more often. I delegated. One of the local radio stations wanted to interview me about the Night Shelter. The immediate past chairperson of the Trust has responsibility for "communications" so I asked him if he would do it. He is much more articulate than I am. He went along and was interviewed by the host of the show for about half an hour. As he left the studio the station's "powers-that-be" intercepted his progress out the door and asked if he would like a change of career. They were keen for him to do work at the station and got him to record a promotional thing there and then. I told him to remember that I knew him before he was famous. He is already very committed to a lot of community activities so I don't think he'll add DJ to his busy lifestyle. But it is a cute story.
Collecting is interesting.
I went out during the week and on Saturday doing some collecting, standing eyeballing people offering them the opportunity to give to a good cause. The thing that intrigued me was that I kept bumping into people I knew. A lady walked up to me and introduced herself, I did not recognise her at first. She used to run the coffee bar down the street. Another elderly man came and put some coins in my bucket, and I recognised him as a regular Christmas day meal volunteer from years back, not in as great a shape now. Habitat for Humanity home owners came by and greeted me like a long lost friend. Ex-firefighters I had not seen in years, chatted warmly and so it went on. One man I recognised as having been a part of my life "somewhere" came up and said, "You're the Dave Brown, aren't you?" "Yes" I said. "I have met you from time to time," he said, "I directed a lady to you just last night. Did you get a phone call?" When I said, "I was busy last night" he responded with, "I guess you are busy most nights!" Other complete strangers walked up and engaged in lively conversations. I received so much warm support for the work of the Night Shelter Trust, that I felt affirmed and encouraged. As I thanked people for their donation, many said, "No - thank you for being there!" I think many recognised me from being in the local paper in a feature about the Night Shelter. The reporter was a delightful Indian lady who I thought showed real respect, not like many reporters I have dealt with over the years.  
"I just wanted you to know."
A year or so ago I assisted a lady from overseas to move house.  I had been asked if I could help in what was for her an uncomfortable situation, but it was for me a bit of a fleeting interaction. (Except I remember feeling guilty that I scratched her fridge.) She now attends a "Women Across Cultures" group which meets in our buildings. On Friday she came up to me, standing directly in front to make sure I stopped walking, and told me that she now had NZ residency and a good job. "I just wanted you to know!" she said like I was important to her. I do think you never know the impact of small deeds of kindness.... Jesus' "cup of water in my name" line comes to mind. 
A precious gift...
Along with the Night Shelter appeal this weekend I had to prepare and present services for Sunday without my usual helpers. On Friday I thought I would never accomplish it and was quite stressed by it all. I had to lead a service at a elderly persons rest home this afternoon without my organist. I stressed about what to do. The other night I experimented and hooked my Macbook Pro up to my old stereo amplifier and speakers and learned that it sounded great. So I put together a powerpoint presentation of songs ("Great is thy faithfulness", "Amazing Grace", "I need thee every hour", "Have thine own way", and "Make me a channel of your peace." - video clips) and readings. I lugged my stereo to the chapel with a data projector, set it all up and my wife and I presented this half-hour service to these elderly folk. I have seldom had such a warm reaction and so many words and tears of appreciation. You would have thought I had given them a precious gift. It was a lot of work but so worth it.  I think the combination of old familiar spiritual songs sung by world class singers, with familiar Bible passages was like a healing balm to these, mostly immobile, "waiting for God" people near the end of their life. Sometimes I get it right... thankfully.

That's me this weekend ... the rain is falling and is to continue.  The lawn and paddock are sodden and I have a day off work tomorrow. I feel a bit stir crazy wanting to walk, bike or run. I plan to build a bench unit if it rains. A day of carpentry will be good for my soul.

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