Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Stewing on "street people".

Living Rough – Closing doors... a story by my wife.

You ask the question “Who is this person, living rough? Who do you think you are, pleading for our sympathy and dollars?” (We at the Night Shelter are asking the people of Dunedin for money to purchase our buildings.) 

Well who am I? Sometimes I’m not sure who I am. To survive my story has changed over the years. Even when and where I was born gets a bit hazy with the meds my body has been hit with. Childhood! Well some of that I would rather forget. Not that it was entirely their fault. I guess I was a bit of a bastard. I thought I was just like everyone else but from the jeers, teasing and beating maybe I wasn’t. It was my fault I guess. The teachers tried, but I could not keep up.  It was a fast downhill trip, gathering speed and bumps. I suppose I wasn’t the only one who breathed a sigh of relief when the classroom door closed behind me for the last time.
A job?- Yes I had a job, but not much of one though. I didn’t have to read so I could get by until -  “ Sorry we don’t need you now. The job has changed.” and the door closed behind me again.  I couldn’t find another, What the hell can I do anyway?  The booze made me feel better.  I guess I looked like a ‘sitting duck’ to the drug dealer but it was something to numb the pain. 
My life was mindless drifting ,‘til, great - an open door!  There were others like me to share my story with, things to do, a meal, some hope.  I had found a daytime drop-in centre. I felt better, more normal, ‘til “Sorry, there’s no more funding.” and the door closed behind me once more.
Shit happens in heaps I reckon. Not long after that, Mum died. Life hadn’t been much for her either. She’d loved me somehow; she was my ‘life line’ and at least I had a home to go back to. Eventually they came and said “Sorry the house is on the market and the door closed behind me again.
Wandering the streets and a mate said “There’s room on my couch” - well thanks. Here was a roof over my head, and more, drugs and ‘all sorts’ coming and going.  “Where’s the money you owe?” this guy said one day.  He had caught up on me.  That led to a trip to E.D.  At 4 a.m. they kicked me out and I went ‘home’ to be told “You’re not welcome here.”   You guessed it the door slammed shut and out into the wet cold streets I went.
Sheltering in a doorway, maybe it was the cold, or the hunger or tiredness, but it seemed there was a line of people, looking like a jury, ready to judge me and my future. One looked set to beat me up again. Was he the guy from standard one? The ‘suit’ said, “Well drugs! What do you expect!”  Was that the dealer or the lawyer? Another, I couldn’t see her face. Guess she didn’t want to see me now. Some pretend me and my sort don’t exist. Another muttered, “What’s the government doing about it anyway? What are social agencies for? Why haven’t they done something? Get them off the streets.”  Life for me is a black hole. What’s the use? Life is crap. There is no future for the likes of me.  I know I am shit, but nobody really knows how I feel. I have learned to hide it, or block it out by acting tough.
As the faces faded with daylight I thought, “if only I could get warm? Breakfast would be nice, somewhere safe, someone to guide me out of this mess.”
I know I’m not the only one. The others I used to talk to, they struggle too.  Mental illness, anxiety, depression, addictions, things that others just don’t understand and can’t cope with. We’ve all had family and friends who have now gone or given up.
The benefit! Well I’ve always struggled to make it last till the next one. Every week I say to myself “This week I’ll do better” and then I stuff it up again.
“Hey, you don’t have to spend the night there.” this stranger says. He takes a scrap of paper from his pocket and writes the address. “Be there at 7pm.”  The Night Shelter! The light above the door looked hopeful. The door opens to “Hi mate, come in”.  Warmth, the smell of food and a friendly face, was it too good to be true? Would I be judged good enough, is it safe, would the money run out here and the door shut again?

Notes and reflections on the story…
This is not the story of any particular person, it is “made up”. But sadly it is a true story.  The story originally was written by my wife Jean when we were mulling over people’s reactions to those who need the night shelter.  I have edited it a little. Jean has written it out of her experiences of running a Friday Night Drop-in centre at our last Church for eighteen years.  We have also had forty years of encountering “street people” and reaching out to them in various ways. Jean did the bulk of the food preparation for our drop-in centre and was like a surrogate mother for the people who came.  She would take around plates of food at different times during the night and engage most in some sort of conversation. So the story is typical of the things that have happened to people often referred to as “street people”. As I read it to edit it, various people came to mind that I knew had experienced these realities.  I knew the people that Jean had in mind and the story is not over dramatic or false. It is a very abbreviated and simplistic story. Most stories of decline happen because of a complex web of interactions, failings and rejections. The theme is that experiences of “closing doors”, real and metaphorical, finally leads to people being imprisoned by their own sense of inadequacy and a real loss of hope.
Disjointed … The story is a bit disjointed and had my grammar checker screaming on my computer. I edited out a bit of its disjointedness but then it lost some of its authenticity. When you converse with many of these people their conversation is disjointed.  They speak often in blurted out short sentences or phrases and you have to make the connections. Often too their voice dies away, it is like they are scared of the sound of their own voice.  Sometimes I am sure they are uncertain of my reaction so they just “dip their toes” in to see if I am accepting or interested in their story.  I wonder how many negative reactions have caused them to lose confidence?
Loss of confidence and hope … I hear people saying that these people do not help themselves, and I often agree.  But as I have mixed with them over the years, in spite of bravado, aggression and “know-all” behaviour, I have come to see that it is a real loss of confidence and a deep sense of hopelessness that keeps them down at the bottom of the heap. I recall taking one with me to Habitat for Humanity. I would coax him into doing stuff, simple stuff like drilling a hole.  After all sorts of bravado and excuses to avoid doing it, he would say, “I can’t do that. I’m crap.”  I discovered again and again, he was simply scared to try.  He did have the skills, but any self-esteem had long been knocked out of him.  That is a consistent theme among these people, hidden often by a tough demeanor.  The aggression we sometimes experienced in our drop-in centre was often like that of a wounded, cornered animal struggling to cope, fluffing up their fur to scare others off.  And they often have no hope. When I lay in bed at night I often think of something good, something positive I can look back on or look forward to. Something I can complete. Maybe a run or walk I want to do. Maybe a task I am looking forward to, or one I have done well. But in the darkness these people have nothing positive to reflect on nor to look forward to. When you have nothing to do and little confidence to do anything, life is a struggle just to get through each day.  There do not seem to be any positives to hold in mind. It is then that smoking, drinking, marijuana or legal highs look attractive. What else is there?
Those that change… I have seen some change.  Change, when it happens, happens in small steps.
Friendship… I once sat on a fence outside the Church beside a glue sniffer. As I sat with him the people going past would stare at us. They did not have to say anything, just their looks said, “You are scum!”  These people live with that every day. We had one very intelligent drop-in centre guest who had mental health and socialization problems. He came into the drop-in once and declared, “There are two “normals” looking for you down stairs.”  (Indeed two of my friends had come looking for me.)  That is what these folk live with. They feel abnormal. To change or even just to cope, they need to be loved and accepted by “normals”. Just in small every day conversation it can make a difference. Even if they cannot change, you are doing a great service if you treat them as normal.  It helps them feel better about themselves. I had one man out of the blue in the street say to me, “Thank you. I just want to tell you - thank you.”  “Why?” I asked, “You always talk to me in the street. You say my name. There’s people in my Church who won’t do that, they look away, they pretend I am not here.” 
 Introduce small steps… There was a young man who stopped and talked when we slept rough in the centre of town. He talked of running the three peaks race, a very high achievement indeed. He has represented NZ in the “Homeless Football World cup.”  When he first came to our drop-in centre he was a heavy drinker, argumentative and in a mess. Two years after my first introduction to him he rang me up and confessed over the phone that a year or so before he had stolen the Church vacuum cleaner. Now he is a changed man. It has taken many people who have been his friend, and many small steps but he is on a positive journey. I played table tennis with him. I suggested the football and joined him in that. I talked about my running and said that maybe he could do it. But others have been there in his life introducing small steps. He has had the friendship and then courage to take those small steps and he is a very different man.  The friendship tells him he is worth something. The small steps give him something he can look forward to.

The Night Shelter? What part does the Night Shelter play in this? It is a small way of saying, “You matter!”  These folk often live on the edge and can easily run out of options and end up homeless.  They have this feeling that society spits them out the back end and they do not matter. In some way the night shelter says, “There are some who care.” I think that can make a big difference, even for those who never need it. They know that there are people who care enough to have it available. It is a worthwhile venture. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World War One.

Edinburgh grandson, Leon. He has his father's cheeky smile.

There has been a lot of media attention on the fact that it is 100 years since the beginning of World War One. I looked at the statistics for this "War to end all wars." Here are some....

  • In total there were 37 Million people killed or injured.... that is 37 MILLION!... that is massive!
  • I have read a figure of 8.5 million killed.
  • 68 million troops were in the field.
  • New Zealand where the population was about 1.1 Million sent 100,444 troops.
  • 18,000 of those were killed. 41,317 were injured. If you were a New Zealand soldier in WW1 you had a greater than 1 in 2 chance of being killed or maimed.
They are astounding figures! All those people killed, all those families losing loved ones, all that misery and too, all that expense!  There has been ongoing consequences of that war leading to unrest in various parts of the globe even to this day.
The thing that gets me.... where were the people who would just ask "What the hell are we doing?" "Why?" "This is stupid!" or "There has got to be a better way!" It seems like the people who said that were labeled "cowards" "Unpatriotic" and some were shot!
And we still make the same mistakes today! ...... STUPID! TRAGIC!
On ANZAC day...
I worry that sometimes the way that we remember our soldiers of the past and those who died, ends up glorifying war. Here is how I believe we need to do our remembering....
- We need to "remember them" but also be ready to question the reasoning that leads to war. Encourage and renew our dedication to finding alternatives to  war and violence to deal with the political, cultural and ethnic differences in our world.
- We need to be ready to give ourselves to create healthy caring communities, not just remember the sacrifice of others.  In our communities there are people, needs and issues crying out for volunteers, generous givers and people who care. It has been well said that "All that is needed for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing."  Remember the sacrifice of our service men and women, but ask ourselves where we in our time can play our part to make a better world.   

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Work' multiplies..

I bought a small diary because I am retired - it still fills up.
Long road ahead...
Last Sunday I slept rough in the centre of town with three other guys to highlight the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust's campaign to raise $650,000 to purchase the buildings we currently rent. We have received about three thousand in this week, but as we talked about options for continuing it seemed like a long road ahead. There is so much work to do and I am leaving town soon.
Other issues...
As well as this there have been three other Night Shelter issues that have emerged during the day. I feel exasperated and tired. I am not sure I am chairman type material. We will work our way through them I am sure. I just watched a film where people were trudging their way through snow in the Antarctic. That's what I feel like - we are making progress, but it feels like you are knee deep in it, walking but having to work hard all the way. That is what it has felt like today.
Encounters up town...
I parked the van on the outskirts of the CBD and walked through the shop lined streets toward the town hall where I had to attend a meeting. I was dawdling because I was very early. I saw across the street, a couple who used to come into the Church at lunch times every now and then.  I waited for them because I had not seen them for a long time and I enjoy their company. We talked, catching up on the things we had been doing. They said they had purposely frequented a cafe they knew my wife and I often went to in the hope of seeing us. They may leave town and were keen that we visit them before we leave town for a while. I smiled and said, "Yes" because I really want to, but then I thought of my diary filling up nearly every day next week. After our meeting I had a cup of tea with the Night Shelter treasurer and we went to a post office to buy some supplies. We waited in a queue and I noticed a lady I knew behind the counter doing her best to ensure that she served us.  She motioned us over even before she had completed serving the customer before us.  She used to attend the drop-in centre from time to time.  We chatted as she served us then I asked how she was doing.  "OK but I have some problems, after Easter can you get in touch and maybe you can help me." All I could do was nod and move off because there was a queue behind us. Again I thought of my diary.... "But when?" I asked myself.
I think it will be good to leave town for a while.  As I drove home in the van I could not help but wish I was already driving north for the family responsibilities coming up.  I know too many people.
Happy Easter everybody.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sleeping rough.

Me waking up.
Taken while I was asleep. The politician is in the cardboard box behind me, sheer luxury.
Our lounge before our horde of guests came. It was cold!
John LeBrun, me and David Clark MP 
A photo somebody took of me preaching at Knox Church on April 6th. Perhaps my last sermon.
Sleeping Rough experience
My daughter works for the Dominican Sisters in NZ and they have donated $1000 toward the Dunedin Night Shelter campaign to purchase our buildings in Dunedin. She sent this report out to the Sisters of our night of sleeping rough in the centre of town.

Dunedin Night Shelter Trust – Octagon Adventures
The royal couple weren’t the only ones to spend time in the Dunedin Octagon on Sunday, 13th April 2014. My father, David Brown (middle in the above photo) along with John Le Brun (left), both trustees of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust, and David Clark MP (right), spent Sunday night in the Octagon to increase the profile of the campaign to raise funds for the purchase of the present buildings of the Dunedin Night Shelter. The campaign is called “Eat the Elephant!” with the price tag on the buildings as the Night Shelter’s elephant – to be eaten “One Bite” at a time! The present buildings are ideal providing a big enough space for a good-sized Night Shelter, providing short term emergency accommodation for men, as well as the Phoenix Lodge which is the first home for ex-prisoners trying to make a positive adjustment to a better life. The need for both of these aspects of the Night Shelter’s work is increasing, with a 46% increase in the last year.
Sunday night was VERY COLD and WINDY, with even my father’s heavy toolbox being tossed in the wind! The news that the NZ Dominican Sisters had “taken a bite” by donating $1,000 was a good encouragement for surviving the wind and the cold! They also had a good crowd of visitors over the night, including Judith Anne and Father Kevin Toomey, and even managed some sleep amongst it all. David Clark, being the Member of Parliament, got the fridge box to sleep in and hence managed to sleep the best of the three! The Otago Daily Times promoted the event the week prior, with the radio station Classic Hits interviewing them after they survived the night. For a night they experienced a wee bit of what the homeless do – vulnerability and exposure to the elements. They are pleased with the publicity and feel like there is a crowd of people behind the work.                                                                                                                                     ~ Angela McMorran             It is a good summary of what we were doing but in fact there were four of us who spent the night there. Keiran read about it on facebook, liked our cause and joined us for the night. He was an interesting guy. You reached out to shake his hand and he would explain - "I don't shake hands, I'll give you a hug though." It was refreshing. But I enjoyed the guests....
Guests visiting
We set up a tarpaulin to protect us from the wind and a few picnic chairs. We had various guests call in and chat and it turned out to be a very social night. Friends called by to chat. I had one guy call in and he declared that I needed a scarf and that he would bring one. He disappeared and did not return for a long time. I was beginning to think he had forgotten me but when he did return he had the scarf, his wife and some food his wife had prepared. Another woman friend had texted me concerned that it was too cold to sleep out. She decided to visit and was simply delightful company joining in the conversation before cycling off again. At one stage I heard a voice call my name and a young guy from our drop-in centre came. He wanted to tell me he had participated in a "three peaks" race that day. It is a race that takes the runners up three mountains (big hills) on the outskirts of Dunedin. The run is about 26k long and quite exhausting. He was proud of himself and I was proud of him. He had come a long way in the years I had known him. It was nice that he had seized the opportunity to come and catch up with me. Another man came with hot chocolates and stayed to chat. At one stage there was a group of about eight guys just chatting and talking about community issues, life and "stuff."  I really enjoyed the discussion, quite blunt and honest, and yet full of insight and wisdom born of life experiences. I thought later that in my circles we men seldom get time to "chew the fat" in that way. We have meetings for a purpose and often do not have free time to really pursue subjects. During the night with various people I discussed theology, politics, homelessness, fitness, life changes, unemployment and finance. I enjoyed the discussions of the night, there is nothing like chatting with good people and widening your experience of life as you learn of their views and experiences.
Sleeping rough means rough sleeping.
Sometime after 11 p.m. we crawled into our sleeping bags and attempted to sleep. The bar across the street cranked up the music; street cleaners came with their machines; it was virtually daylight with all the street lights; trucks collected rubbish; cars drove past and the cold wind blew. I did get some sleep but three of us got up about 5 a.m. and went to the 24 hour shop for coffee and further conversation.  If I was homeless I would certainly find a quieter, less exposed and darker spot to sleep rough in. It was a new experience in life.... we have one committee member who is already suggesting that it be an annual event. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Aching sadness for "unstructured lives".

I am to sleep rough in the centre of the city on Sunday night to raise the awareness of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust's  fundraising campaign to purchase the Night Shelter Buildings. It has sparked quite a lot of media attention.  But various media people have said, "We should do an article on 'homelessness in our city' featuring the problem." A reporter asked, "Do people have an accommodation problem in the city?" To such issues I want to answer, "It is a far deeper problem than just finding a roof over their heads! It is a 'life issues' problem." Some people who have a roof over their heads live in smelly boarding houses on a mattress chucked on the floor amongst filth, with hardly a change of clothing, wearing socks and jumpers with holes, going from crisis to crisis in their lives. They sometimes become homeless, but homelessness is a symptom of what is going on. An article or feature studying homelessness would have to take on these wider issues. They will sometimes go back to failures of the education system. Sometimes they will go back through generations of dysfunctional families. Sometimes it can be directly attributed to the economic system and the technological revolution that is going on. Sometimes it is the availability of drugs and legal highs. Often it is a mixture of all these and more. 
Unstructured lives... hopelessness.
I was reading the court news the other day and the judge was dealing with a recidivist drink driver and all round rat bag who, through alcohol abuse had caused mayhem once again. The judge told the offender, "You have an unstructured lifestyle." As I read I thought that is a correct description of so many lives I encounter.  There may be a variety of symptoms. For this offender - alcohol related problems. For another they can be hooked on legal highs, out of money and in a mess. For another they could be trying to live beyond their means on a benefit and in a financial mess trying to look normal. For another - ongoing inability to cope with the relationships of life. For most of the above they are unemployed and unemployable. Sometimes many, for a variety of reasons, develop mental health issues. But again and again, "Unstructured lives" sums up their situation and a feeling of hopelessness. They are deep in the poo one way or another, and unable to climb out. Much homelessness is the symptom of these lifestyles. 
People watching blues...
Often when I walk to my brewery chaplaincy I pass an agency which tries to help these people. I know many of their clients because they have been a part of my drop-in centre. I walk past and I see up to twenty of them moping around outside where they can smoke. There they sit sometimes talking, often in dull silence virtually chain smoking. Banjo Paterson in his poem "The man from Iron Bark" describes people in the barber shop by the words, "their heads were flat, their eyes were dull, they had no brains at all." Every time I see this crowd I think of that line. It is a picture of unstructured lives, sucking in and breathing out lethal, expensive tobacco smoke, with nothing else to do and no likelihood of changing till they die an uncomfortable death as the systems of their unused bodies and brains give up.
The other day I was down the street in "that" area of the city. There was a legal high shop. I watched all these unemployed people wandering aimlessly about the streets, again smoking. A big number popped into the shop to buy their legal highs. Sometimes there were raised voices where groups yelled angrily at each other. Just a whole bunch of unstructured lives, just existing until they get to be old people and die. That's not "life"!  I find myself wondering what can be done to bring structure, hope and some sort of life back into them? I rack my brains for possible solutions. Somehow our society leaves them on the scrap heap of life. Surely, surely we can do something? How do we avoid new generations of these sad people?  Last Sunday I was driving home from my walk. I saw a man who attended the drop-in centre walking, so I offered him a lift.  I dropped him at the home he was sharing with his family. His daughter was at the front of the house. Now in her twenties, I have known her since she was 12 years old. She has grown, been tattooed, been involved with drugs, bad people and had a baby in prison. She is now out and was calling her baby as I pulled up to drop her dad off. Our eyes met, and I waved. She nodded, her eyes were full of hopelessness, anger, dishonesty and sadness as she looked away, I suspect purposely not wanting to really encounter me. I drove away deeply sad... she had been a nice twelve year old and we had fun back then!  What is ahead for her and her child? 
Deep Sadness...
Most people live ignoring these folk's plight or even existence. I wish I could. Each is a precious person. I have no answers, but just this aching sadness. I identify with the sense of passion and agony seen in Jesus. Luke writes;  - As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognised on this day the things that make for peace! (shalom?) But now they are hidden from your eyes." And in a similar scene in Matthew's gospel; "How often I have desired to gather your children as a hen gathers her children under her wings, but you were not willing." In these phrases there is a deep sense of sadness and hopelessness at the predicament of the people of the city. That is me. Why must I be burdened by this sadness and not find an answer? It is a real pain to live with. It reminds me of the Johnny Cash song, "The man in black."  How do I describe this pain? It is like one who loves from a distance watching the one they love suffer. It is like a parent watching a child struggling with life. It is like sitting by the bedside of someone in pain or struggling to breathe - you want to do something but cant. While I live positively and always seek to enjoy and taste the good things of life, I live with this sense of sadness because I know others who seem to wallow in mud.  While I laugh readily and enjoy a joke, somehow deep inside I continually ache for these people.  It is an experience of grief, but a grief that motivates my attempts to make some difference.  Sorry to share the heaviness, but that is me tonight. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My weird life.

I share some pictures and a link from my activities this week.
On Sunday
I took part in an Order of St John Church parade. I preached at the service then dedicated a new ambulance.
On Tuesday
I visited the ambulance station. While there I took a phone call which was a radio interview about the night shelter and homeless issue in Dunedin.
On Tuesday afternoon
I visited the fire stations. I took our friend Isaac who is visiting from London and showed him some stations.  Isaac was very good to us when we visited London.
On Wednesday morning..
I enjoyed spending the morning at a stables with my friend who trains trotters. I spent a lot of time talking with him and a couple of other horse loving guys - and watching him working with the horses.
On Wednesday afternoon...
I was interviewed in the Octagon (Area in the centre of the city) about our Night Shelter fundraising campaign. The reporter happened to be my nephew.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Retirement? What retirement?

After the Church parade we dedicated a new Ambulance.
Wednesday night's warm gathering.
The protest on Saturday.
This week has been very busy, but with some deep moments in it.
Responding to an accident
As chaplain I was asked to come in to the brewery on Tuesday. A contractor there had a serious accident and I was asked to talk with brewery workers, and basically listen to their shock. Then on Wednesday the contractor died and I again spent time with brewery staff. Again on Thursday I called in, and will call again this week.  In my other chaplaincies of fire and ambulance I heard a little from their perspective. I began to feel a heaviness about the whole incident as people shared their pain. It was a sad accident and I have more work to do to help people process the impact of it. You do feel useful though in helping people through a difficult time.
Night Shelter fund raising
We are working toward raising $650,000 for the purchase of the Night Shelter buildings we currently rent. We have begun a part of our campaign, calling it "How to eat an Elephant".  I have been busy looking at possible Trusts to apply to, working out a special "launch" and lining up meetings. We had a meeting with the mayor, with a fundraiser and among ourselves. To do all this I have often been busy sending emails backwards and forwards. We also had to meet with police to work out protocols for the use of the Night Shelter. Another taxing element has been that our funding for the operation of the shelter is running close to the wind. I have had a few sleepless nights stewing on possible answers for this. At the moment it remains unsolved. 
Faith and Ale
There is a Catholic mens group which meets at a pub. They call themselves "Faith and Ale." I was invited to come along to their meal on Tuesday night and talk with them about "the sorts of things you have done - in fifteen minutes." I prepared a speech using stories of characters I have encountered in my ministry career, to highlight some of the things I had done and the lessons I had learned in each. I discovered that I was a hit, and a group of guys sat around for some time after discussing things. One, a teacher, wants me to talk at his school assembly, which happens to be the secondary school I attended. That would be fun! Another man I noticed during the talk sitting and listening intently. He nodded in agreement from time to time. He walked past at the end and dropped a folded bit of paper on the table in front of me, tapping my shoulder as he went. I later opened it and found it was a cheque for the Night Shelter for $1000! A good night's work.
St John special...
The Order of St John had a Church parade at Knox Church, a well known, liturgically correct Presbyterian Church in our city. I had several meetings and emails to prepare for this. I was to be the preacher.  In many ways I do not fit in that setting, you climb stairs to a fenced in pulpit. We worked it all out and I preached my heart out in this high pulpit. I had some really good comments from people. Three different individuals used the term "Orator" and told me I was a "clever", "skilled" or "talented" orator. Other people said they really enjoyed it and found it "inspiring."  With this very positive feedback to today's sermon and Tuesday night's talk I wonder what I ought to be doing with this "gift"?
I have not preached since December. I was reacquainted with all the preparation necessary, the nervous energy expended and the stress involved in doing a good job.  I love crafting a presentation, but done properly and sincerely, it is an exhausting process.
Again I have come away from my chaplaincies valuing the depth of conversation and the friendship I have enjoyed. I have talked with a cancer sufferer going through chemo treatment - then his wife. I have talked work relationships with firefighters. Listened to joys, pains, joked and caught up. I do love people in all their variety.
We have legal highs in New Zealand and the government has passed legislation that many do not think goes far enough to either ban them or limit their sale. There were protests in every city in New Zealand on Saturday. My wife and I went along to the Dunedin protest. Some of the stories of addiction and its consequences brought tears to my eyes. There were a couple of groups trying to push their own agenda which I thought was quite rude. People seeking to legalise marijuana pushed their opinions - one speaker who had slurred speech and could hardly string a sentence together was not a great advertisement for their cause. I have seen devastated lives because of both legal highs and marijuana - I want neither in our communities.
Church links..
One pleasant interlude in our week was on Wednesday evening a couple who relatively recently joined my old church invited us for dinner with some others from the church. They are great cooks and they really greeted us warmly, treated us to a great evening and expressed the wish to have more contact. The current "interim minister" of the Church rang me to have a talk and ask questions about how I was going. I guess I found that tough, because it brought to mind all the stresses and frustrations of my years of ministry there. 
Still working...
I feel like I am still working. Each day I have an impossible "to do" list. My son in Edinburgh when he heard I was preaching and doing lots put this on Facebook for my edification...

retirement -
noun: 1.
the action or fact of leaving one's job and ceasing to work.

synonyms: giving up work, stopping working, stopping work.

I could do with backing off a bit, but I do feel useful and feel like the things I do are making a difference in this old world.  Tomorrow another interesting week awaits.