Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I remember three important lessons.

Part of my mountain track- time alone is invaluable.
My daughter visited the wood shed.
On Saturday night my daughter and her husband came around home, keen to see the wood shed I had built and they had seen on facebook. We took them out and showed them my building project. They made some positive comments as they studied my handiwork. But while they were looking I was looking at my work, seeing it through their eyes. They are both very good at DIY work. They have done heaps of great stuff around their place, including building a wood shed with sliding doors! It was while they were looking at it, and later after they left, that I began to question one aspect of the design. I had the door opening into the shed. That meant that there was a big bit of unusable room in the shed. As I thought about what their perspective may be on my handy-work, I realised that they might see that as a flaw.
The next day I had to drive south from Dunedin for about two hours and while I was driving I set my mind to planning what I would have to do to have the door swing outwards. On Monday morning my wife and I grabbed some tools and worked through my plan. The door now swings outward. I can use the whole space inside for wood. It is great when a plan comes together. I was reminded of two life lessons through this experience.
First - I got to thinking, how many times in life we would benefit from looking at our actions, our priorities and our work through others' eyes? While it is sometimes important to march to our own beat,  at other times it often does help bring perspective if we ask the question, "How is this seen from another person's more objective point of view?" Often we get caught up in our own ways of doing things and need to stand outside and look in, imagining others' perspective. My daughter and son-in-law did not say anything and may not have thought of it, but just my wondering about how these two clever people would perceive my work, made me a more clever handyman.  Churches, preachers, bosses, charities all could do with looking at their work through others' eyes.
Second - As I drove for a total of four hours on Sunday I was able to plan how to make alterations. I planned the job out in detail in my mind, so Monday morning was just a matter of doing what I had planned. While driving, I had uninterrupted time to plan. Time spent thinking is important. I know one well known author/psychiatrist who got up very early every morning and spent the first two hours cogitating on the day ahead. He told others it was his "prayer time" so that he would not be interrupted.  I walk up my mountain, walk around the block, garden or sometimes just sit playing solitaire on the computer, all the time thinking and planning. I once jokingly suggested to the chairman of the Church elders that a climb up the mountain ought to be seen as a legitimate part of my working week.  I always did it in "my time" but so much of my work was sorted out and planned in those walks. Time alone thinking is invaluable.
A final goodbye.
I was the celebrant for a "burying ashes" ceremony at Papatowai, a coastal village two hours south of Dunedin on Sunday. We remembered, said our last farewells and celebrated the life of my good friend Don Gordon, Brewery historian and a delightful, intriguing unique man who died about eighteen months ago. He is always remembered with warmth and smiles and that was the case as a group of us gathered around his headstone and shared stories.

My ceremony started with this... "Often when we come to a cemetery we just see death. But in reality they are places recognising not death, but life. They are places at which we are reminded of the contributions of earlier generations of people. These headstones represent years of lively, responsible, creative living and relating.
The truth is that I live my life now in the way I do, in the type of community I do because all these people lived, loved and contributed in their community in their time. These memorials recognise their living.
We come to bury Don Gordon’s ashes today and we dedicate this place to his memory. But this place does not just signify his death but his life. It reminds us of all he shared as a person in his years of living."

Third lesson.. Many cultures value their ancestors much more than we in the west do. The truth is that none of us are "self-made." Our society, our lifestyle is the result of many generations of people journeying, discovering, inventing, creating, relating, searching, debating and loving. Part of the "amazing grace" ("grace" means "undeserved gift") in which I live, is the heritage I have received from those who have gone before. As we gathered at a cemetery on Sunday, I could not help but be thankful for those who had gone before, and especially my friend Don.

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