Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What do you fill your mind with?

TV, media rubbish

After doing things related to Chaplaincy, Church or Night Shelter affairs during the day, I settle down to blob out in front of TV. We look at the TV programs and despair. 
We often watch a current affairs program called "Story" on TV3.  I remember insightful journalism, asking really hard questions, exploring at a reasonable depth the issues. But sadly not in recent times. There are short bursts on various subjects, thankfully good news along with the bad news. But it is inanely superficial! An example - they were exploring the fact that in Pre-schools now, because of well publicised alleged sexual misbehaviour, the number of men entering the teaching profession at this level, and indeed in early childhood education has decreased dramatically. They are saying that young children are missing out on male role models and men's perspectives. After the item the two front people discussed it. The woman, whose superficiality irritates me often, commented, "Young men should go in for that career. There is nothing more attractive to women than a man who is good with children!" That might be true but imagine a guy saying, "I think I'll be a preschool teacher - I can pull more chicks then!" What a weak, superficial reason for choosing a career! What a weird perspective? Journalism these days seems to be that superficial! After that we decide what to watch and if we watch anything. Here is a list of potential shows...

  • There are real life police shows. We can watch police pull over dangerous or drunken drivers and argue with them as they give them a ticket. Or we can watch police wander around the pub scene in an Australian town, picking up drunk uncooperative people, women acting in slutty ways and doing stupid, sometimes violent things. Or we could watch them delving into the wicked drug scene. These things are used as entertainment.
  • Then there is the Bachelor program. There is a group of women who vie for the love of a bachelor. They all go on dates with him. They have various adventures with him and one by one he eliminates them until he chooses one to be the love of his life. The women get catty with one another and throw themselves all over the guy. They act and dress super provocatively.  This program takes an important natural phase of life, and makes a sickening competition of it. It brings out the lowest of behaviours in people.  
  • Then there is the "Married at first sight." This too is about marriage. People are matched with strangers and are married, then the show follows how they get on after their rushed wedding. Again what a sick perspective on life! Fancy figuring making an entertainment program that cheapens marriage in this way? It is a sick!
  • Then there is the program about hoarders. We are taken into the houses of people who have a hoarding addiction and we follow their struggles and fights and sorrows. I have the deepest sympathy for people in that predicament. I have known a few, and indeed I suspect some would say I hoard a little bit more than I should.  But why make an entertainment program about it? Why do we have this voyeuristic longing to watch people's misery? 
  • OR I go to the Doctor's waiting room and look about for something to read. There are all these women's magazines with stories of failed marriages; dress clangers of the rich and famous; who is dating who; who looks fatter than she/he ought to look; what nasty embarrassing situation the film stars and celebrities have been photographed in; what drama and rumours we could possibly look forward to in the Royals' lives; etc. Once again in the name of entertainment, the basest activities of the human mind and actions are highlighted and paraded as entertainment.
I could go on, but you get the picture.  We could mention the crap that titillates people on facebook but we won't start that.  I give up and don't watch much TV. Thankfully there are some good pleasant shows on some nights.  I think the world does not need these distortions. I think they do damage. They create people who think the entertainment and superficiality that the likes of Donald Trump provides is OK potential presidential behaviour, God help us! The Apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." That is pretty good advice. The world will be better if we paid heed to that! While there are some inspiring TV programs and magazines, the world would be a much better place if there were a lot more in today's media.

A Room full of lovely people.

I went to a function last night which was the complete opposite of this, although I questioned some aspects. Trustpower, a power company in NZ runs annual competitions to select the best, creative caring community groups. There are various categories, Health and Wellbeing, Culture, Leisure and recreation, etc. It highlights the voluntary efforts in the community. Last night they had their regional awards. I arrived and got a glass of wine and mingled with some familiar faces. The room was filled with people who volunteered and went the extra mile in their community, representing various groups. It never ceases to amaze me what people do. In my ministry and community involvement, I have encountered a few bad eggs, but here was a big room full of responsible, giving people. Medical people who run a free medical centre. People who care for victims of family violence. People who have a concern for the terrible suicide rate. Trampers who voluntarily clear and care for tracks in the bush so that people like me can go walking. A group who run a centre where native flora and fauna are protected and fostered. There were over 200 people there and each pair represented many other supporters and volunteers. It was a great encouragement to see and mingle with these people. We sat for the formal proceedings. Youth volunteers were highlighted and received awards. Then the various categories were announced. First the runners up, then the regional winner in each category. The Night Shelter Trust was regional winner for the Health and Wellbeing category.  I had to go forward and receive the award and say something. The Mayor, who I have come to know more, seemed thrilled to present it to me and said, "Well done!" There seemed to be a warm expression of general support for our winning the award. But whether a group "won" an award or not, all these people, and all the people they represent deserve recognition. They are focused on the "honourable, the just, the pure, the commendable, the excellent and those things worthy of praise." They express these things in their lifestyle. I salute them and thank them for their important role in our community. My hesitation is that why again, do we have to make a competition out of it? Can't we just recognise the effort without saying "they won the award and you did not"? They are all winners. But I am proud that we were recognised. It has been a long journey to get to where we are at with our night shelter.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Reflecting on life and its fortunes.

A beautiful bay where I stopped for lunch on my Sunday walk on Waiheke Island. 
I love walking wild pathways.
Grandson Stanley comes for a ride.
Reversing away from the beach before venturing along it. When we came back he said, "More!"
Super confident, 3 year old (nearly 4) grand daughter Edith, on her father's paddle-board. 
The two buckets on the left were the harvest from the final plants of sown potatoes. The right hand blue bucket are "grace" potatoes, self sown in long grass. 
Visiting Waiheke Island
Our oldest son lives with his wife and two children on Waiheke Island, about a half hour ferry ride from down town Auckland. My son has a bit of health uncertainty and we had not seen the grandchildren for a while, so we decided to make a quick visit. It is really like a tropical island compared to Dunedin. Dunedin, down the south of the South Island of New Zealand is starting to feel the chilly evenings and mornings of autumn. Life guards have stopped patrolling beaches and only the brave in thick wetsuits venture into the water. On Waiheke Island, in the north of the North Island there were people swimming in the sea and sunbathing! I got to enjoy a couple of hours of kayaking in a bay on the Saturday, and a lengthy coastal walk on Sunday. We flew up on Friday, catching a plane, a bus and the ferry, returning in reverse order on the Monday. It was, for us, expensive travel, but family is important. 
Careful what you want.
The Night Shelter Trust owns two buildings. One we operate as a Night Shelter, the other we operate as transitional housing for men fresh out of prison. We have often wished the ex-prisoners would take responsibility for the lawns and gardens around Phoenix lodge, but that never seemed to happen. But now we have a guy who seems hyper-active and so keen to do things. He demands tools, weedkiller and machines, and he wants them NOW! He has the other tenants moving things, raking grass and keeping up with his busyness and me run ragged trying to supply his needs. The place is looking neater by the day, but I have been known to scream "That damn man!" or words to that effect.
A lesson from potatoes.
Today I dug the last of our planted potatoes. They have been a good crop. Beside the garden there is a pathway with long grass growing. Amongst the long grass were potato plants that were self sown, perhaps from discoloured or small potatoes I had discarded on the path seasons before. Today as I cleaned up the final row, I decided to dig these wild, self sown potatoes as well. To my surprise I found that they had grown well and I filled a bucket with them.
I got to thinking. These are "grace" potatoes. I did not have to buy seed potatoes, prepare the soil, dig trenches, hoe them up or water them. They just grew. They are like what the Bible calls "Grace", undeserved favour. As I put them into the bucket I got to thinking how, perhaps when we look at a homeless man or some other person in a mess, we often say, "There but for the grace of God go I,"  I dislike that saying because its logic implies God gives some "grace" but not to others. I would prefer just to say, "There but for grace, go I." So much of life is sheer chance. Where we were born. To whom we were born. The heritage we received in our community, in our family, and in our genes. Some of us are fortunate indeed. We receive a big bucket full of "grace".  I was born into a caring stable family, in a peaceful community with health, education and lifestyle facilities laid on. Some, however, were born in Syria. Some were born in poor unstable families. Some were born with low intelligence, and little support. Sometimes we receive a "big bucket full" of undeserved favour in life. At other times the grace component is minimal, and we live life with immense deprivation of one sort or another. 
Be grateful for the undeserved buckets of "potatoes" you receive, make the most of them and share with others who received few, or none.