Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, August 10, 2015

You are as good as the people around you...

Me and my friend from the politicians office. He called me "legendary"?
The "Dongle" that got left behind!
The St John Colour party practice while I panic!

People gathering for the service unaware of the drama.
A Legend?
When I was talking about our night sleeping out in the centre of town I mentioned that as I was being introduced to the crowd the speaker called me "an all round legend".  One of the guys that works for the local politician had a photo on his face book and the caption read, "It was a real pleasure to sleep out in the Octagon with the fantastic team from the Dunedin Night Shelter and the truly legendary Dave Brown." Yeah right?  When I was collecting during our street appeal week people often came up and gushed, "You are doing such a good work! You are sooo good!" On the Saturday I was collecting and this young woman arrived in front of me asking questions. She had asked one of the other collectors if I was around. (My photo has been in the paper so often) He had sent her to me. She asked questions about the Night Shelter. Then asked questions about me. "How did you get involved?" "Why are you involved?" As she left she gushed, "I told my partner I just had to meet this man. I have heard and read so much about you!" 
Now I cannot really take such affirmation and adulation seriously. Mostly it is just polite flattery that is felt to be fit for the occasion. When I hear it I squirm. I want to shout, "It is not me! It really is the people I mix with." Whether my achievements are seen as the annual Christmas Day dinners; the Habitat for Humanity stuff we did; the Drop-in centre at the Church; the various community ministries; the chaplaincies; the Night Shelter etc. - all these are not my doing, they are the result of group action, groups of people pulling together for a cause.  You really are as good as the people you have around you. Others lift you up. Others draw you out. Others make up for your weaknesses. I am not a legend. People power is the legend - people working together make things happen. 
Near melt-down at Church Parade!
The Order of St John where I do voluntary chaplaincy, has a once a year Church Parade. At the Area Committee, which I am part of, they reminded me that I had to organise one. I groaned inwardly. It is quite a task to get ourselves invited along to the usual service of one of the inner-city churches. They have to change some things to suit this group of people coming along - and you never know how many will attend - and St John has to fit into whatever liturgy, religious language that they have going on. In the experience of many it probably does not work out well for both groups. The next meeting I made a suggestion. "Why not have our own, St John, Church Parade?"  Now while historically St John is rooted in Christianity, these days it is quite a secular group of people. They agreed to give it a go. So we took over the funeral chapel of a local Funeral Director firm (They were happy to host us and extended warm hospitality providing afternoon tea) I arranged a service called "Celebrating Compassion" and we advertised. The day turned out to be snowy in Dunedin and the roads in many of the suburbs were impassable, so that limited numbers. But we had our service and also dedicated a new ambulance. It was not without incident. The chapel was about 15k away from our home. I had all sorts of things on power points - song clips, wording for the hymns, a reading and movie clips. I wanted to make it an interesting service for the secular people attending.  I went in on Friday and tried it all out, with the manager of the firm being most helpful. My Apple laptop needed a "dongle" - a little connector adapter so that it could connect into their system. On Friday I had it with me.  On Sunday, however, I drove in thinking I had everything I needed and when we were unpacking realised I did not have this little "dongle"! My wife said she would go back for it. It would be at least 35 - 40 minutes to do the return trip, and I had very little confidence she would find it in my messy study when she got there. She insisted, which left me there feeling helpless. I rang my daughter several times but she wasn't answering her phone. I rang a friend, who lived closer, and she rushed down with several "dongles" but none were the right one. My daughter seeing my many frantic phone calls on her phone arrived, and my ever patient son-in-law rushed off to see if he could find one at his work. Eventually my wife returned with about a quarter of an hour to spare, (She must have sped!) AND she had found the right one! My daughter and the manager hooked up the "dongle" and we began the service on time and all went well without the congregation knowing of the drama. But I must confess I was "crapping my pants" as they say. If I did not have that dongle my service would have been ruined! I would have looked incredibly silly and unprofessional. The traditionalists would have said, "We told you so!" I had adrenalin rushing through my veins, I was pacing and at the same time trying to converse and organise other facets of the service with others. I was close to meltdown.... but again, the people around me enabled me to conduct the service as if nothing went wrong. You are as good as the people around you!

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