Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, October 31, 2016

An Imposter?

Facebook comment;
During the last week of August a retired firefighter delivered a donation of firewood to my house. I was blown away with gratitude. I blogged about it (August 31) but I also put it on Facebook. One of my facebook friends, is a clinical psychologist, workshop presenter and author. He did work for the local fire service and I met him initially in that capacity.  He commented on facebook with... 

You reap what you sow Dave! Conversely, the Grateful Dead once sung: "If you plant ice, you're gonna harvest rain". Not that I need to tell you that!!

Then my friend went on holiday and I followed his adventures on his facebook page. When he came back from holiday to my surprise he went and commented on the post again....

Six weeks later and I come back to this post, which has stayed with me since it was posted. When one radiates such generosity in life as you do Dave, then it somehow comes back in mysterious ways. Living a life based on unconditional giving is such a position to hold. All your hard work for the Fire Service, the Church, the Night Shelter and countless other worthy causes that you support, and the compassionate friendship that you offer others, builds engagement. Its the very stuff of living life well. Such a simple joy...

My reaction... I responded saying that this sounded too saintly for me..."in reality I just muddle along doing my bit."  To which he pointed out that he didn't say I was a saint, just a generous man... or something like that. I had two internal reactions. First his description of what my life was based on (unconditional giving) is in idealistic theory correct. This is the theological "ideal" I aim for. It is, to me, an essential part of being a follower of Jesus. But.... I have never talked theology with him? We have talked critical incident stress management of fire fighters. We have shared briefly running stories. I conducted his son's funeral. when he tragically died as a 21 year old. But we have never talked about my ideals in life.  So at one level, I was thrilled that somehow he had been able to see the theoretical ideals I live for in the way that I live. I was pleased about that.
But.... My reply on facebook holds true... the glowing comments about me, "can't be me, he must be mistaken?" "He does not really know me." You see I know the mixed motives and the inner "sins" and the many, many times I fall far far short of the ideals.  So my reaction is, he does not really know me and if he did, he would not say these things, and would be horribly disappointed. 

It happened again this weekend. I went down to the Church where there was a bit of a market, selling baking, displaying arts and crafts. I ended up sitting behind the baking table with a woman who has just taken over the treasurers job, thus saving the Church over $2000 a year. One of the ministers commended her on her willingness, and she pointed to me saying, "He guilted me into it!" After the minister had gone, I said that I hoped anything I had said in sermons had not made her feel guilty. "No" she responded, "I just saw how much you were prepared to put into the welfare and purpose of the Church, and that inspired me to "get off my bum". Again, I thought, "is that me she is talking about?" I led a St John Ambulance Church Parade on Sunday. We had the Salvation Army Band helping us with the music, and after the service one of the band members I had never met before came up and said, "You really are a great speaker aren't you?" "I have had plenty of practice, I guess I ought to be able to do it by now." I replied. But he went on about it. I had very positive responses from various people, and somebody put on facebook that "a great man was leading the service."  But .... in anguish, I still repeatedly asked my ever patient wife several times throughout the afternoon and into Sunday evening, "Was it alright this morning? Did it come across OK? Did I make a fool of myself?" I cannot accept accolades, I know the real me!

Impostor syndrome... I have a friend that I have run with (these days, "walk with") most Sunday afternoons for at least the last twelve years. We often debrief our week and talk over stuff during our exercise hour.  She is very successful in the field of education, working for a not for profit group who have responsibility for research, teachers professional development and other educational contracts. She has also succeeded academically, continuing to progress through various university courses with high marks. Many years ago we discovered this common feeling. We have both made the comment about ourselves that goes something like this; "One day people are going to discover that I am not all that I claim to be. One day I am going to be exposed as a fraud who knows nothing, and is just bluffing my way through my work and life." Over the years we have laughed often that both of us, again and again have admitted to this feeling. It is such an intriguing phenomenon. I do know that as a follower of Jesus I fall far below the ideals he sets before me. That is taken as read because the ideals of love are high. But this experience of, "You must be talking about a different guy?" whenever I receive any adulation, is such a consistent feeling and one I have never grown out of. My friend discovered a book called "The Impostor Syndrome" and she said she was going to read it and report on it to me. We'll wait and see. 

Wikipedia says... "Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud".[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women."
Its comforting to know it has a name and that others experience it too... though I can hardly be described as a "high achiever"!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Two Photos...

Sad losses
This picture is gut wrenching. All these lives from the Otago, NZ area were lost on the Somme in WWI. Each cross represents a young man whose life was cut short. Such a line up of crosses makes you realise the terrible impact, and we should remember. I got to thinking - though perhaps not remember in the same way - but I would love to line up a similar display to see the terrible number of lives washed down the sewer by our economic systems, the greed of the richest, the failing mental health systems and our often upside down values. I used to look at the twisted lives of our drop in centre people and weep inside. I met one old bloke I've known for 30 yrs the other day. Now well into his 70's he was shuffling down the road with his walker, nearly blind from cataracts, dribbling, making his way back to his rented, powerless house.. Very sad. Some how "NZ" has failed him.
Crosses in the Queens Gardens, Dunedin, NZ
Fantastic Quiz Night
Congratulations to the Dunedin firefighters and the team there who ran a great quiz night last night with proceeds going to the shelter. A good successful night, REALLY appreciated. Helping to mark the answer sheets for 26 teams kept us busy though! I know the provisional amount raised, though yet to be announced. It looks like it could get to $5000! But the support offered, the feeling during the night and the persistence of the firefighters to make this happen was amazing. I was blown away by their companionship in my journey.
A Quiz night at Dunedin Central firestation to raise funds for the Night Shelter.
Update: Through the quiz night Dunedin Fire Fighters raised $5000 for the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust. So cool.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Life in the fast lane...

Funerals continue..
I have now led seven funerals since we came back from Scotland at the beginning of July. I have also attended two others as doorman/sound system operator/bell ringer at the local Church. Maybe it is proof that I am getting old? The last one I led was different. We went through to Christchurch to catch up on my son and his family there one weekend. On the Saturday I had a call from a paramedic from St John Ambulance, (where I am voluntary chaplain) to say that the mother of an ex-worker there was dying, and the ex-worker was asking about possible funeral plans. At 7 a.m. (sleep in time when you are on holiday) on the Sunday morning I had a text to say that the mother had died. On the way back to Dunedin the next day, I had a phone call from the ex-worker to ask if I would lead a ceremony. The mum had moved to New Zealand from the UK a year or so ago, to be with her daughter, so knew few people here. They lived on a little farm property a few kilometres north of Dunedin. Between us we designed a funeral that suited the family. Mum was cremated and on the next Saturday evening at sunset, on the lawn of this little farm overlooking a misty valley, about  eight people gathered for a ceremony. The mum had been born in Glasgow so two pipers, friends from St John, began the ceremony. I was in effect master of ceremony, so introduced things, had a reading, then two members of the family spoke. I spoke some more, reflecting on the mother's life, then shared some words of committal. The pipers cranked up again and when they ceased we all had a nip of whiskey to honour life and the mum. Then, with it being dark by this time, fireworks marked the end of the ceremony and the setting free of mum's being. Again bagpipes finished proceedings. It was in fact very moving and appropriate for this family. 
I have agreed to lead services at the little local Presbyterian Church two Sundays in four. I had felt strongly that there was a need for consistency, pastoral care and a drawing together of the Church community. It is early days, but I feel that there has been an increase in attendance (at least when I am leading) and a more positive, "together" spirit about the place. I am enjoying the experience and feeling more and more relaxed in the role. Today's service was one where I involved a few people from the congregation doing various parts. A family shared their musical meal time grace with us, and we participated. The father of the family led a couple of songs with his guitar. Our parish session clerk lead a prayer, and a young teacher led our prayer for others. Each one played their part very well. Our Parish session clerk is a vital woman in her eighties. I had asked her to lead in a prayer of thanks for the life of a member who had died, and whose funeral we shared on Friday. His widow and daughters were in the congregation. Her prayer was something very special. It was born of love for the family, reflected the wisdom that came from her own experience of losing her husband a few years ago, and was extremely well worded with a beautiful economy of words. She did better than I could have done. When I announced that we would finish by saying "the Grace" together and "if you like you can join hands" there was a spontaneous move as the whole congregation joined hands with each other. I think we can do something with this little group of mostly elderly, but essentially loving people.
We own three 1990's vehicles. We have a little Toyota Starlet which is my wife's runabout, a red Nissan Bluebird which is a great car for trips and my Nissan Diesel long wheelbase van. We have a system in NZ where the vehicles have to go through a Warrant of Fitness check every six months. This is a nerve wracking process when you have old vehicles. The little Starlet has no problems. The van generally passes relatively easily, but often requires work between Warrants. The red car almost got through, but failed on an important difficult-to-fix problem. I have started repairs on that. The van lately has been causing me grief. I replaced the radiator. The windscreen wipers broke, so I repaired these, having to dismantle nearly everything under the dashboard to do so. One of the hoses to the transmission sprung a leak, causing the whole side of the motor and under carriage to be covered in oil, and of course, no drive. I fixed the hose, but could not find out how much transmission fluid to put in the gear box. I was advised by the man in the parts shop as he looked at his computer, but advised incorrectly. I put a way too much in, and upon driving it, it squirted out of the dip stick holder. This led to fusing of the glow plug system. I fixed all that, then discovered it was overdue for a Warrant of Fitness. The mechanic checked it and passed almost all of it. Except he said, "There is too much shit about, I can't see to check the fuel system."  I brought it home, got some degreaser, and lying under the van and in the motor compartment, took the dirt off the vehicle, transferring most of it, I'm sure, to me! I took it in to be rechecked and the mechanic passed it. I must say it seems to be driving better than it has since I purchased it. People say that I should dump all my old cars and purchase one newer model. I am unconvinced. A man I know purchased a newer vehicle more than twice the price of all my cars put together. (Total purchase of my two old cars and van comes to $3,800) In the last year he has spent $4000 on mechanical repairs. All my vehicles have paid for themselves several times over. I have a versatile variety of vehicles, one which can transport big stuff, (firewood, furniture, tools, ladders etc, and we can camp in it) another for comfortable sedate trips, and an economical runabout. It is a satisfying feeling when you repair them, but just sometimes they can test my patience, and I envy those with flash new vehicles.