Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Positive Week

"Wicked Wanda" parked by the brewery I visit. 
Students who helped our fundraising cause at our celebration. I had presented their facilitator with a certificate.
Waiting in our seats at the stadium as the crowd arrives for the show. 
Neil Diamond is somewhere up there on the brightly lit stage. It was a fun night. I hope I have his energy when I am 74. 
This last week there have been positive developments and experiences.
Wanda is drivable
I have a 1991 Nissan Bluebird that I am sentimentally attached to. It has sat without being used since we headed away overseas last year. We have cleaned it, worked on it, got it a legal warrant of fitness, payed the registration that we owed on it, and this week I drove it into my chaplaincies. I enjoy driving it. I have nick named her "Wicked Wanda" because she is a "spirited car" which is fun to drive. So I feel good about seeing her operational, instead of just sitting getting dirty.
Night Shelter Celebration
At the end of our three year fund raising journey the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust purchased the buildings. It was quite a milestone, so we thought we ought to have a celebration function and invite all the major donors just to say "thank you" and to express our commitment to using the buildings well and wisely. On Wednesday evening we held this function. It went well but I put a lot of time into preparing for it. On Wednesday I prepared a power point that I wanted to have running over and over again. There are 30 slides telling the history of the Night Shelter Trust and of our campaign. The function was to start at 5:30 p.m. At some time just after 3:00 p.m. I had just about completed all the various aspects of the display I wanted to set up, including my powerpoint slide show. I was working out how to time the slides, and have them repeating the cycle.  Somehow in my rush I lost all but the first few slides. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I had gathered lots of photographs and information, arranging them artistically in the slides, but now that was all gone, hours worth of work, lost in the depths of my computer,  I set to and prepared them all again. Fortunately it was easier second time around because I knew where everything was. I completed all, rushed through the shower, dressed and arrived at the conference room in time to set up and welcome the guests. All went well, but it was a very stressful afternoon.  We had people from Trusts, families and groups who had contributed significantly to our fundraising. I was pleased with the warmth of the evening, with many Trusts expressing their desire that we keep in touch.
Student Volunteer
I had been holding an email conversation with a student who had emailed us offering to volunteer for administrative work with the Night Shelter when she returns to the university next year after her summer holidays.  We really could do with skilled administrative help so I had arranged to meet this lady at the University.  On Friday I arrived at the agreed meeting point and loitered. I had sent her a description and photo of me, but I did not have a clue what she looked like. I felt a bit conspicuous loitering in this cafe type area attached to the university library looking at women students. Here I was obviously an older man, sitting around, looking at each girl student who walked past just in case she was the one. Then to my relief I heard "Dave" being called. I turned and here was this gorgeous (She would rival Julie Roberts or any other beautiful film star) woman coming toward me smiling. We chatted about possibilities and swapped information promising to catch up next year. She was so beautiful, maintaining eye contact with her blue eyes that I must admit to being a bit thrown by it all. What she is willing to do sounds good. She seems to be a genuine person so we hope it all goes well when we make contact next year. (I have had such promising interviews before which have proved not work out as well as we had hoped. You can put a lot of effort into some people and it can be wasted time. - so I am a bit cynical.)  When I told my wife about the encounter and that she was willing to spend a few hours each week doing administration, her comment was, "I hope you do not have to spend that time working with her!"
A beautiful gesture
I drove away from the university to the parking area of a hardware store.  My phone rang and upon answering it I discovered that it was a man from a wealthy family Trust which had supported us in our campaign.  We chatted briefly about the Wednesday evening celebration, then he said that they had four tickets to a Neil Diamond concert to be held in the local sports stadium on Saturday night. He went on to say that the members of the Night Shelter Trust work so hard and deserve a night out. Would I be interested.  My daughter had already given us tickets to this concert as birthday presents for my wife and I, but I said that I am sure some members of the Trust might be keen to go.  I then got in touch with some people likely to be interested and made the necessary arrangements. So my wife and I enjoyed Neil Diamond, my daughter (hard working Night Shelter Trust Treasurer) and son-in-law and another Trustee and his wife went also. I was really thrilled with the warmth of this gesture. The tickets would not have been cheap, it was great that they thought of us. 
My daughter and her husband are setting out on a project to do up another room in their house. This involves stripping wall linings off, doing some carpentry and then putting new linings on. My wife and I have traditionally helped in this, so on Saturday we loaded the van with carpentry gear and headed to their place. I love banging in nails and fixing stuff up. Tomorrow is Labour Day in NZ, a statutory holiday, so tomorrow we will be going there again.  That I will enjoy.
In spite of my uncomfortableness, we still attend the little local church where most of the congregation is elderly. There is one younger couple and they had decided to have a baby dedication service. They were keen for Jean and I to be there as their friends. My wife has a special friendship with them and their children - their little girl often sits with us in Church. We sat in assisting as they and the Parish Clerk planned a service to suit, and this morning we enjoyed a service that was different. 
This afternoon I first planted potatoes. I had prepared the ground and following lots of advice from various people about new and better ways to plant spuds, I planted a crop that I hope will supply us with lots of food for next year.  Wait and see. I then had to go to town to the Night Shelter, so I took the opportunity to go for a rare run. I enjoyed plodding around a familiar six kilometre course. I hope to do more. 

So i have experienced lots of positives in the week. Still though, for some reason I have battled a sort of insecurity and depression. I think it is a bit of a come down reaction from reaching our fundraising target. But I will work my way through it, as I always do.  As a local TV presenter used to say, "That was the week that was." 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Who am I?

The old disk pads from our van.
My old "friends" - plumbing tools.

There is nothing like digging a garden, with birds singing about you. 
So handy - firewood gathering vehicle, bedroom, tool box. furniture removal etc.
"Wicked Wanda" recommissioned. Such a great car to drive.
Recently I have been doing a variety of things, some of them physically orientated work along with other more cerebral functions.
As chairman of the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust I have been busy lately buying our premises, talking possible funding options and "running" the operation. We are a governance/working Trust Board and I have been like an executive secretary organising things, doing administrative things, keeping in touch with staff and generally the face of the Night Shelter in the city. Last Tuesday morning for example, I talked to a Rotary group at a breakfast meeting at 7 a.m.; talked with the person on duty overnight at the Night Shelter; had a meeting with a man who had been fundraising for us and began to formulate a letter for him; presented prizes at a big hardware store and received money from the staff who had been doing a walking challenge raising money; then spent time talking with one staff member who is doing community work for us.  It is in some ways out of my comfort zone, but I have been successful. It has been a major role in my life in recent times. 
A couple in the church we attend want a parent/child dedication thanksgiving service and I have been involved in helping that to happen. It has involved emails back and forth, creative thinking and a lunch time meeting on Sunday. This morning I skype chatted with a woman who used to attend my old Church, who is now living back in Hungary, but was visiting Denmark. I had a real friendship with her, she used to call me "Dad". We had not made contact for a long time, but today as we chatted she shared personal stuff and from a distance my heart ached. We "connected" though we were on different sides of the globe. I was her supportive pastor/friend. Today also I visited an elderly couple from my old Church. I have known them since I was a boy, and I knew that they had a long standing dear friend die last week. I took the time to go out and spend time with them. I was a pastoral friend listening to their story, feeling their journey and accompanying them at this late stage in life. I do a similar thing wandering around fire stations, an ambulance headquarters and a brewery for at least eight hours each week.  I enjoy that.
Gardener/ homesteader.
I have been preparing the vege garden to receive this season's crops, and planting some. I enjoy the time to dig, cultivate, and plant.  A part of this role is the continual gathering of firewood to make sure that we have fuel. I enjoy gathering firewood, and keeping the house warm for free. The simple basic earthy physicality of these things is a great feeling for me.
We have three 1990's vehicles. The van needed new disk pads on the brakes. I had done disks before so decided to do them myself. I put on overalls and repaired the brakes. As well as this job I went on to do other tidying up, adjusting type jobs on the van. We had a car which we had not used for nearly two years, we decided to get it operational again. We washed it, did some repairs, fueled it up, freed up linkages and now it is nearly ready for the road again. It drives so nicely.  I love being a mechanic, so enjoyable fixing things, getting things working.
The other day I was having coffee with an old friend who attends a church in town. He had a plumbing job he wanted done at the Church he attends, and asked if I could do it. I went there this afternoon and he and I spent a couple of hours doing this plumbing job. I loved it - in my element, using tools, doing the job I had trained for many years ago and making the system work. 

Such a variety! The thing is in most situations I come away thinking, "This is great! This is me!" I love in my overalls doing mechanical and plumbing things. I love working away in the garden, digging or gathering and chopping wood for the fire. There is something basic and earthy about this. But I love the creativity of preparing a church service. I love the "along-side-ness" of being a chaplain/pastor. The one I feel out of my comfort zone with is the "CEO" of night shelter, but I love that I have been a part of dreaming up, establishing and securing a Night Shelter operation in the city, and seeing it evolve. Which am I? CEO? Pastor? Gardener? Mechanic? Plumber? .... and I guess there are other roles.  I saw a quote yesterday. "Some people are really poor. All they have is heaps of money." I am rich, I enjoy different aspects of who I am. Even at my age I still don't know who I am, which is fine.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Be the Church!"

I LOVE this.... just sayin'.

A different view of our Night Shelter buildings. The front one is a 5 bedroom facility with 12 bed capacity for emergency housing. The back one has seven bedrooms we use for transitional housing. Currently we work with Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society in housing guys fresh out of prison for three month stays.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Congratulations Dunedin.

The post below appeared on the Dunedin Night Shelter facebook page today. We have finally purchased the Night Shelter. I guess it has been a dream a few of us have had for the last eleven years. We have been trying to raise the funds for about three years. It has been a long journey with a few bumps on the way, but in the end the people of the city were incredibly generous and supportive. The post went on the facebook late in the afternoon and already has over 230 "likes". I reposted it on my facebook and friends have been liking it warmly. 

Dunedin Night Shelter
6 hrsEdited
We're delighted to be able to tell you that as of today the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust officially own their premises at 18 Lees St smile emoticon
Many thanks to everyone who helped us get here and a big thanks to our solicitors Lucas and Lucas for providing their services and conveyancing work pro bono. Another great example of ‪#‎DunedinHelpingDunedin‬smile emoticon
When I reposted it I expessed my feelings by commenting with these few sentences. 
Feeling deeply pleased. It has been a long held dream which will go on serving the needs of Dunedin for generations to come. Relief... joy... humble...grateful and feeling a real responsibility to use the buildings well.
We had a bit of a hiccup last Wednesday. (Thursday  was meant to be the purchase date.) One of the Trusts giving $200,000 was not able to transfer the money. We had to negotiate with our friendly landlord to extend the time, and his lawyers came up with a suitable deal. It was all very stressful. I had a phone call from our lawyer at about 3 p.m. today to tell me it was all finalised and felt relief.  One of my facebook friends who I met through being in Habitat for Humanity together shared this thought...

WOW! You made it! YOU and all your minions made this happen for the people of Dunedin who needed it. I am proud to call you a friend! When the going got tough, you continually did not quit, you kept pushing, kept making this visible to the community. You made it happen! CongratulationsDavid Hilliard Brown!

I was quite moved by that comment. It has been quite a journey, and there were times when I began to wonder if we had bitten off more than we could chew. But we persisted, and if I may say so, one of the few talents I have is persistence! I seem to be able to hang in there when others drop by the wayside... maybe it is stupidity and stubbornness.  I have had good friends along the way who have pulled their weight too.
At about 3:30 p.m. I texted a friend saying, "I could die tomorrow. I have a legacy. Dunedin has a dedicated night shelter building. I have done something good for my city." 
On Wednesday after meeting with our lawyers, we went to the bank to transfer a big sum of money. A helpful and patient man was assisting us as we had to transfer money from different accounts, then on to our lawyer's account. At one stage he had to go to the bank manager to seek permission to transfer such a big amount. He came back and we proceeded, only to be interrupted by the bank manager. He warmly grabbed my hand and said, "Congratulations. You have done so well. What a lot of work. Isn't it great?" He went on to comment, "It is marvelous how the city got behind you. You have so much support. It wouldn't happen in any other city in New Zealand. Well done!" I was taken aback by his positive warmth and the sincerity behind his comments. 
It is a very big milestone for the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust and an incredible step for our city. For generations to come emergency accommodation will be available.
Mahatma Ghandi said, "A nation's (or community's) greatness in measured by how it treats its weakest members." My city, Dunedin, is pretty good. We have had so much support in our work to care for the vulnerable in the city.