Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Jimmy Stynes – keeps on giving

My Journey, Jimmy Stynes’ autobiography is, as you would expect, an extraordinary read.

A few years ago, it was a privilege to watch Jim Stynes work with groups of kids in two of the schools where I used to teach. His charisma was something to behold. He was gifted. He could establish trust with a group of students so quickly. One time at an all boys’ school, I saw him set the mood in the college theatre... he got the lighting right... fired up some loud music and the students created their own mosh pit for a few minutes. They bashed and crashed into each other with testosterone fuelled abandon. This was chaotic ‘boy’ energy, given permission to be released.

In the ‘calming down’ that followed, Jim shifted the focus to the issues in the group. What was not being said. With a kind of magic, he invited individuals to step forward to say anything they wanted to. He asked the boys to agree that whatever was said would be received with no judgement. These 14-15 year olds poured out their hearts. Some spoke, and got out of their system, the burden of hurt that had built up because of the names others called them in the school yard. Permission was there in that moment to really say, and not hide, the impact that bullying had had on them. Some of these things had gone on for years.

The boys who had been the bullies also stood up and said that they were sorry directly to the person they had offended. Again, Jim reinforced the pact of ‘no judgement’.

Jim would ask, each time, the young bloke how he felt. The common response was ‘relieved’. Some of these boys, tough-looking exteriors, sobbed their hearts out.

This post started with the declaration that Jim’s autobiography is extraordinary. Why?

Yes, he covers off on all of the infamous and glorious moments of his sporting life... running across the mark in the 1987 prelim’, his freakish 244 consecutive AFL games and his fairy-tale Brownlow medal of 1991. The latter he shared with his dad as his guest. But, this is not why My Journey is extraordinary...

In his book he applies the same process to himself that he offered to those kids at school. He shares the everyday stuff that he struggled with, as a dad and a husband. It is all laid bare in his book (written with the support of his good friend, Warwick Green). In the chapter called ‘Fatherhood’, he explains,

Whether it was because of stress, exhaustion, medication or my brain tumours I could not be sure, but there were times when I was terribly short-tempered with the kids. It felt like there were days when I was seeking confrontation with them. I would find myself shouting, sometimes in such a ferocious way that it scared them. Afterwards, I would feel ashamed. It was something I’d always said I would never do as a parent, and here I was making my own kids cry.
From both a dad’s and a bloke’s perspective, I find myself grateful to Jim Stynes as I read these words. Here he is still giving beyond the grave.

Jim Stynes died earlier this year on March 20th. Seven days later, Melbournians turned out to his funeral in their tens of thousands to honour a man who, in 1984 had arrived in that city as an eighteen year old. A young Irish Gaelic footballer, picked out by Ron Barassi to play Aussie Rules for the Melbourne footy club. The twenty seven and a half years that ensued were filled with a generous life. His funeral is one of the biggest ever seen and it fittingly sealed his legend… he will be eternally part of the pantheon of his adopted city.

But what gets me is the ordinariness of his struggle as a dad. Have you ever lost your rag with your kids? I have for sure (and I am fit and well – he had a good excuse). For fellas, often emotions find their way out through the funnel of anger and that’s what is liberating about Jim Stynes sharing his tough moments as a dad. Here is a bloke who will be remembered by two countries for near on forever, for his greatness, persistence, positive attitude and leadership. Yet, in his own life experience, he puts it out there that he had shortcomings. Just like those kids who shared their tough stuff, reading that Jim was human, makes me feel what the kids said they felt back in those school sessions – relief. Someone who has become a giant figure in the mythology of two nations sometimes got grumpy with his kids. It’s good news for those of us mere mortals who are around this Christmas.

Christmas’ original story is set over two thousand years ago, in a stable at the back of an inn in a small town that now is part of modern Palestine. There is humanity, ordinary humanity weaved right through that story. I reckon the story tellers who wrote it down, were very mindful of making sure that that scene was set. Out of that humble beginning, emerged a great story.

Jim Stynes’ story is like that. He embraced his humanity and lived a life that was extraordinary.

He gives us all hope.

If you’ve got some time over Christmas, I commend his story My Journey to you.

Friday, 21 December 2012

First World Problems

Have you heard this phrase popping up in your conversations this year? My teenage kids are quick to spot a first world problem when someone is complaining about an issue that pales in comparison to what people face in the majority world every day – like having access to a regular fresh water supply. Recently our dishwasher broke and our household has returned to having to hand-wash and dry all the dishes in the sink, with its hot and cold running water. What did Monty Python’s Four Yorkshire men say? “Luxury. You were lucky!” There are so many instances where we can catch ourselves feeling hassled by the loss of something that really is a luxury. What has this slight inconvenience created? We’ve had more side by side time, as somebody washes and someone dries. Usually someone would stack the dishwasher in isolation.

It is Christmas time and a first world problem our extended family faces each year, is the allocation of a Kris Kringle person for the ten adults in the tribe. The process of finding a person to secretly buy a gift for, has conditions to it, you can’t draw your partner’s or your own name out of the hat. My daughter is the oldest grandchild and manages the ballot sometime in October each year. There is feigned annoyance and groans as we try to draw names out one by one and get to the last person who says – “nup, I’ve just drawn out my husband’s name.” At this year’s family Kris Kringle draw someone remarked that it must be easier to elect a new pope! The drawn out process has become a quirky annual tradition for our family. When the KK’s are finally decided and people have written the names into their smart phones (because another first world problem is that we can easily forget who we finally got), the big post-mortem ensues on how excruciating the process was, and theories are proffered about how this ‘problem’ could be solved next year.

Recently, I found a website, believe it not, called Manage my KK. It enables workplaces and families to input all the KK recipients, the conditions of allocation etcetera. It can include elaborate features like a gift price limit. Participants can log on and drop hints, suggesting the particular gift they want. What do you think? Is this an over solution of a first world problem? Isn’t the fun found in the way a family enjoys the familiarity and playfulness of complaining about how arduous it is to draw a KK?

Whilst you are seeing flippancy in this ‘first world problem’ discussion, I think affluenza, as it has been termed, does create a deeper challenge for parents who raise kids in the first world. Our kids have access to a lot of ‘stuff’. My nineteen year-old daughter has never known a world without the internet. For young people, I reckon having so much stuff threatens their opportunities to be kind, to reach beyond a concept of self-centredness. Without providing opportunities to contribute and us parents noticing these moments, the default becomes the world and all its gadgets doing things for them. It could shovel out their capacity to know the joy of deep humanity.

This Christmas time, let me share two moments I have spotted in each of my teenagers. Recently I had a minor medical procedure booked. As usual, I was busy... the appointment rushed up in the schedule and Amber (the 19 year old) showed concern when she learned I would have a local anaesthetic injected into my eye.

“Dad – how are you going to get home after having a needle in your eyelid?”

“You know I actually hadn’t thought about that Amber,” I replied.

“OK”, said Amber, “then I will drive you there.” Wow – a small act of kindness from a grown up daughter to her dad. I was touched and proud of her.

The young bloke was not to be outdone by his sister. He’s sixteen and doing his job as an adolescent... pushing boundaries and causing his dad to keep the line clear. It is parenting trench warfare sometimes and his mum and me see ‘two steps forward, one step back’ as a clear ‘win’. In the midst of all the grumpy growing up and the tense conversations that we have as father and son, there are still the moments that pop up and offer the reminder of the kind heart that is in the good young man he is becoming.

We had been working on the young bloke getting consistent with a weekly chore – taking the bins out. It is a big help as I travel to do the Time & Space programs. My schedule is varied and I am not always home on ‘bin night’. We had sat down and I’d explained how this, being a small job, could make a big difference in our household. Can you imagine the delight when I returned from a Mother & Son night in South Australia, arrived home just after Jack had left for school in the morning to find a note he had written on the floor as I opened the door. Again, how proud was I when I read the following words...


I hope you really enjoyed Adelaide, I took the bins out last night and there’s a coffee for you in the pot.

Love Jack.’

We are lucky where we live. The challenge for first-world parents, around Christmas time is to find the true gifts that we can give to each other. A good starting point is noticing where our kids have been truly kind.

If you are a mum, dad or guardian – how about this Christmas letting your kids know that you spotted a kind act of theirs that made you proud.

For the young people who might have found this on mum or dad’s ipad, maybe there’s something you appreciate about what they do for you that you could tell them about this Christmas.

Feel free to share the kind moments you have spotted in your tribe this year in the space below.

Thanks for reading this year and have a great Chrissie.

Bill Jennings

Friday, 31 August 2012

A Father’s Gift

Arthur is putting in the last couple of rows of chairs for a parent information night.

I like to get to my presentations early and often, I bump into someone like Arthur, the maintenance man at a boys’ school where I run the Time & Space programs. I wander in with 216 sheets of paper under my arm.

“What can I do for you mate?” asks Arthur.

Arthur has got that friendly mix – he greets this new person whilst he is also busy, doing his job (and proudly, I might add).

“I’m here to talk with the parents tonight.” I explain. “My name’s Bill, by the way.”

“No worries, I’m Arthur, good to meet you Bill. So what’s written on those papers?” he asks.

I reply, “I’ve just run a session with the whole Year 9 level and each boy was challenged to write to their dad (or mentor) a ‘thankyou’ note and then to give it to him when they next see him.”

Arthur has finished now and the room looks great. He’s curious and asks another question.

“Do you reckon that what the kids write, sticks? Or do they just think it in the session and then forget what they’ve written later?”

“I reckon that the kids who actually hand the note over are saying something. You know, we encourage them to hand the note to their dad... but we don’t actually make them do it.”

“Yeah – I just wonder,” muses Arthur, “I reckon some kids have got too much these days. My kids sometimes were disappointed when they saw their friends being given things... because I told them I’d never buy them a car. That’s something they’d have to earn.”

Arthur is starting to tell his remarkable story and in that sharing what he values.

He continues, “there are some things, I’m only too happy to give them. I’m past 65 now and should be retired. My youngest is 16, still in school and looks like she’ll being going through Uni. I might be working for a while yet.”

“How many kids Arthur?” I ask.

“Three... the oldest boy went here. He’s 27. The middle one’s – she’s 23, and the little one.”

“How have they gone?”

“They’ve done good,” a proud half-smile curls from the corner of Arthur’s mouth, “the oldest one has a double degree in Management and Engineering. The middle one has a Masters in Dietetics.” He goes on to say, “I’ve told them - I’ll look after their education. I want them to have what I never got.”

Arthur left school at 13. He explains to me that education is not the only thing he’s missed out on.

“As soon as I was born, my dad took off. I never met him. So I’ve had no role-model to work off,” Arthur explains. “Until I was 7 or 8 I lived in an orphanage in Bendigo because my mum couldn’t cope with me and my older brother on her own. Then later we moved back to live with her in St. Kilda where, it was pretty rough and ready and I kind of...”, Arthur pauses for a moment and looks at me, “well you kinda learnt to protect yerself, you know what I mean?”

In the midst of this extraordinary conversation, a couple of times I hear Arthur say things about himself as a person and specifically, himself as a dad like, “look I’m not perfect” and “I’m no angel.”

It is pleasing to let him know that a big theme in this Time & Space work is to reassure mums and dads that no parent is perfect,

“I reckon it’s all about ‘turning up’ Arthur and supporting our kids... you have done that in spades and, you’ve come from a lot further back than most. You know Arthur, I reckon if your kids had the chance to do the ‘thankyou’ activity the boys did today, you would have heard how grateful they are for your gift of education.”

“They’ve done that, in not so many words,” Arthur replies, “them doing well is thanks enough for me.”

As he speaks I am reminded of the pivotal message that Steve Biddulph penned in his best-seller, Manhood – an action plan for changing men’s lives.

Every father, however much he puts on a critical or indifferent exterior, will spend his life waiting at some deep level to know that his (children) love him and respect him. Make sure you absorb this point. He will spend his life waiting.
As I’m remembering that, Arthur is still thinking about my question about his kids ‘saying thanks’ and a special recent memory has sparked.

“There was this one time last year with the youngest one, she’s a bewdy... I reckon she’s got the best of me as a dad. You know, you sometimes work it out a bit better when they come around for the third time...”

I nod. I reckon he’s right.

“My brother-in-law turned 70. He’s up in Queensland. I couldn’t go up for the party but the young one travelled up with my wife” there’s a full smile on Arthur’s face now... “I went to ring my brother-in-law up to say ‘happy birthday’, his daughter was going to get him and I hear my young one in the background, say ‘I want to talk to dad’, and she jumped on the phone...”

Arthur’s voice quavers a bit now... and as he continues, his eyes well up.

“She just got on the phone, and straight away said, ‘I miss you dad!’”

He looks me straight in the eye saying, “That really got me.”

Arthur never knew his dad. If your dad is around this Father’s day, let him know, with your words, what you are thankful to him about. It will mean a bit more than the traditional pairs of socks and jocks!

Arthur’s young daughter’s spontaneous message on the phone showed that you don’t have to do much, to make even a lifetime’s effort, like her dad Arthur trying to be the best dad he can be, seem all worthwhile.

To all the dads reading this, Happy Fathers Day.
Bill Jennings

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Running Alongside his Students

The great thing about blogposts is that they can sometimes be a slow burn (Paul Kelly reputedly took years to write To her Door) or in this case, immediate inspiration impels that the story just has to be recorded now.

Eric Hill has left the building... Well, he just left the (geography) room at the International Boys School Coalition Conference that's happening in Melbourne at Scotch College all this week. I have just been witness to a man outlining a running program that Eric likes to call 'therapy in disguise'. I have to say it was an honour to be present as a good man outlined a passion that he used to benefit others.

Now Eric is a serious runner. His students at school each year, after he runs in the New York marathon, ask if he won. He tells them that he probably couldn't beat the winners on a bicycle. What is extraordinary is that this guy said that he has run the New York marathon for as many years as he can remember. We didn't get a number - simply, it was that he has run the marathon for a lot of years. Witnessing him explain these interactions, it is so obvious that this man is role-modelling the value of persistence, the pleasure of finishing and working at, and reaching a goal.

I just heard him saying to a colleague as he left the presentation room, "Man, I am wiped out." Remember this bloke is a runner. Eric was spent emotionally. Why? I suspect because he had just prepared and, put on the line, a significant account of the body of teaching work he has created over his time as a PE teacher at St Bernard's Boys School in New York. He explained to our workshop cluster of about 20 people that, "at 11.25am, it was looking ugly." What he is describing here is that feeling that workshop presenters get in the pit of their stomachs when the time to start approaches. This session was starting at 11.30am and he told us that virtually nobody had turned up with five minutes to go. I was one of the last ones in but by that time there where good numbers in to hear and see Eric's presentation of his extraordinary work with his students.

So, the thumbnail sketch is that Eric, with a team of dedicated colleagues has built a running program that boys at the school can sign up for, regardless of their fitness levels or athletic ability. It happens during timetabled classes. They run in Central Park, around the reservoir, through the tunnels. They don't just run, they do boy things like picking up sticks and having sword fights along the way. In the tunnels, of course a group of 30 boys make a holy racket and ensure that their shouting creates the full echoing boom effect as they yell their way through that part of the run. They run in the heat of summer and yes, they run too in the depths of winter, even when New York is under snow, he takes the kids outside for snowball fights. Eric Hill, who this blogger has never met before, outlined a career that I sense has a crucial underpinning... he has never forgotten what it is like to be a boy.

There are a page of scribbled notes here next to me full of Eric Hill 'gold'. They come from this amazing video that a colleague put together about the program. There were beautiful quotations from students and what follows too, are the choice phrases I wrote down as Eric shared his vignettes.

From the boys one young man said that he enjoys the competitive elements that are available in the program but his deepest enjoyment came from "running, just for running itself." I ask you, how often do our kids these days consciously articulate that they do something just because of the intrinsic value and enjoyment they derive from that pursuit? Standing out too, through the brilliant video story is student after student putting emphasis on the word 'love'. Describing the experience of a race, one of the boys paused and said "I... loved... running in that race".... as he said the word 'loved', you could see the boy's smile matching the glistening in his eye.

The video concluded. The group broke into spontaneous applause. Eric then took questions about the program.

Here's a few things he said.

"I don't cut anybody (from the running program), I don't care how slow you are."

"We run with the kids." Isn't this a powerful metaphor for assisting young people through adolescence on their way to healthy adulthood?

Eric observed how the boys really 'talk' with each other when they are out running. They share things as they run alongside each other. Topics that would never be covered inside the four walls of the classroom. He observed that there was something in that 'alongside' talking... boys running and talking side to side seemed to help discussion that might be different eye to eye.

We heard about a boy in the team whose family, a few years earlier, had gone through a divorce. That boy's mum told Eric it is the only time, when he is running or, gets back home from running, that she ever sees him smile.

Eric then put up another picture on the screen of a group of four boys in his charge. They were all smiling, beaming in fact after an inter-school event. One of the boys in the picture is the self-appointed chief distance measurer of the whole running group. You could see a little computer chip in his shoe. Eric would get reports from this boy's iPhone after every session. These four young men were a relay team who had come fifth in a race with five teams.
These kids might have come last in their race but Eric proudly declared that that little team had "won just by being there".

And for all the people in the workshop today, we won 'just by being there' because we experienced the delight and privilege of hearing a good man humbly sharing his story. A story that has ignited a passion for running and more deeply, a passion for living in a countless group of New York boys down the years. More power to you Eric.

As always, feel free to write your own thoughts in the space below.

Maybe you can give a 'shout out' for the person who has 'run alongside' you in your life.

Bill Jennings


Friday, 15 June 2012

Josh's Story

Josh is a Year 12 student at The Hutchins School in Hobart. He spoke as a panellist at a Time & Space night I facilitated for a group of Year 8 boys (average age 13) and their dads or mentors. He offered an insight that smashed a stereotype. You know the one: that wisdom only comes from people with grey hair and wrinkles.

Josh was asked to mention a quality that he saw in his dad and to offer an example of that quality. He shared something unusual from a person his age.

“My dad’s best quality is his ability to give advice,” Josh offered the audience.

There’s nothing unusual about giving out advice. For those of us who are parents reading this, we are experts at giving out advice. If you’re one of the young people who read these articles, you probably feel that sometimes our advice giving just turns into white noise. I’m sure my two teenagers agree with me (for a change) on this point.

So there is plenty that is simply unusual about a son saying that ‘giving advice’ is his dad’s best quality. Josh was asked to offer an example. He told a story. As you read it, Josh’s wisdom is obvious – he can look back and see himself growing, see himself realising and see himself taking responsibility. The other wise character in this story is Josh’s dad. He didn’t come along to the night. I have never met him and that adds something to the marvel and mystery that his son nominated his ‘advice giving’ as his best quality.

Josh started the story saying that “my father gave me an anchor point.”

Josh remembers that it was November 2003 when he first received the slip of paper. His dad had copied out and written an anonymous quotation that had captured his eye in the local newspaper, The Mercury. As a then Grade 3 boy, Josh read the words, thought they were good and put them somewhere. That somewhere was not anywhere special because after a time, he lost that slip of paper. His dad noticed this. He knows that his dad noticed because at a certain time in 2004, he received the same quotation again, written in his dad’s hand, on a fresh slip of paper. And, yes... he held on to that slip for a while before he lost it again. This happened again in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

“It just ended up getting lost and discarded,” was the way Josh described what had become an annual practice.

Don’t you love the way stories, really good ones, have delightful coincidence infused through them. Josh was talking to some fathers, mentors and their Year 8 boys and it was in 2008, when Josh was in Year 8, that he received the slip of paper from his dad again. He received it for the last time. Why?

Because this time Josh said “I kept it, I know where that piece of paper is right now – it’s in my wallet.” Josh went on to explain, “It’s old and tatty but I know it is there and I get it out regularly when I need some inspiration.” You get the sense that Josh likes the learning he gets from the words but don’t you think that as he gets out that now four year-old slip of paper, he also knows he is holding a tangible example of his dad’s advice.

What’s the gold in his dad’s particular style of advice giving? It was delivered with planning, with patience and meted out on one rare occasion each year. With the utmost respect to Josh (because it sometimes takes me more than six years to get a message) I heard someone say this year, that we can send an email 12 000 miles across the globe in a second. Yet it can sometimes be years for it to travel that last eighth of an inch through the bone in our skull.

Josh told Year 8 boys that in Year 8, he finally got the message his dad was giving him just once a year, patiently until he finally took it in.

In preparing for my role as facilitator of these panels, I usually read out the questions over the phone and offer the young people who will be on the panel like Josh - an opportunity to talk through what they would say. Josh chatted for a while but then said, “I’m good now. I just want to take the next couple of hours to make sure I do this panel role right tonight.”

And in going off to do that extra preparation I think Josh did something else. He showed that he has embodied the words on that slip of paper:

Aim a little higher.

Go a little further.

Do a little better.

In taking the time to prepare, Josh showed that he does this as a matter of course now. And in doing that he honours his father.

What Can Parents Draw from Josh’s dad?

Put a premium on your advice. Josh’s dad was patient. He gave his son the piece of paper once a year. He was happy to wait until his son learnt the lesson and took ownership of the words. What might happen to the advice we give to our kids if we even halved the frequency with which you dish it out? When commodities become rare, they increase in value. Maybe the same rule applies to advice given in the right time and space.

What can Young People learn from Josh?

Josh thought carefully about the best quality he sees in his dad. Take the time to consider the special gifts that your mum, dad or guardian has. Find the right time and space to let them know specifically what you see as their best qualities. Maybe even write them a letter and surprise them. Watch their reaction if you follow through on this!

As always you are welcome to share your responses in the space below.

What's a great piece of advice you have received? Who offered it? Why is it so valuable to you?

Bill Jennings

Monday, 4 June 2012

A Mighty Mentor

The star of this story signs off her messages to the world with the words... Be inspired. Be Inspiring. The words stand in comfortable alignment with the way she lives her life.

Just before you go on reading, please, stop...

... for a moment...

... and think of a person who is a mentor to you, a role-model of kindness and generosity. Formulate the picture of their face or say their name quietly to yourself.

I met Marie Farrugia in 2010. We were both at one of my first monthly meetings of the National Speakers Association of Australia. Having made the jump from full-time teaching into the Time & Space program work, someone had suggested joining NSAA. Hard to believe if you’ve met this shy little blogger, but there I was shaking amongst these people who had being doing professional speaking for years. I felt almost frozen to the spot. Have you ever stood in one of those new spaces and thought who do I talk to next? I was pushing myself every month to turn up and be amongst these people who, as an occupational trait, present as larger than life and very confident on the outside. A lady with a beaming smile made a beeline through the crowd and was heading towards me.

“Hi Bill, I’m Marie”. The greeting couldn’t have felt more sincere but “hang on”, I thought to myself, “how does she know my name?” The answer came in a second...

“I was at the Marcellin College Mother & Son night, thank you so much” And then Marie said, “come and meet some people”. Suddenly I’m shaking hands with people and being introduced by Marie to her colleagues of many years. Some of these people had built highly successful businesses.

“Please meet Bill, he just presented an experience last month for me and my boy that we will never forget.” Marie’s welcome was effusive. It was at that moment that a shift occurred deep inside your (yes I know you don’t believe but I’ll keep saying) shy blogger. A colleague had affirmed that the Time & Space experience had made a difference to her. She helped me believe in myself, that I was doing professional presentation work. It was real.

Marie, The Mighty Farrug'(*), as I call her, made an offer to help, be a mentor in my speaking development. We caught up not long after that meeting and a friendship has grown from there. I became aware hearing Marie share her story, that she has had her challenges – one being in the form of breast cancer. When I met Marie, she was emerging from a successful regime of treatment. We had attended events each had presented at, to be present as a supportive colleague. I was the only bloke at a session in Hawthorn where she was trying a new presentation. I thought it was brilliant. Little did I know that as she told the story of her discovery of the lump during that presentation, that only that week, had she secretly learnt that the cancer was back. In 2011, we didn’t see Marie much at all at NSAA meetings as the disease had spread. The battle was on.

Marie's hospital was just near the venue of our NSAA meetings. So I visited on my way in. The memory is still strong and clear - I can see her sparkling smile that welcomed me in. It transferred a lightness of spirit that I'm sure humbled every visitor. There's no question she was physically weakened by the gruelling medical interventions. Yet typically, this mighty person was ‘other focussed’, so keen to hear the news of our colleagues, excited to learn the latest developments for the Time & Space programs and offering, as always, generous practical tips. Here was my friend and mentor, seriously ill, demonstrating that every moment presents us with a choice about how we deal with it.

I appreciate that not everyone gets the result they want when cancer strikes. I am mindful of our friend Jacinta who is in the battle right now. Her husband Jim, tells similar stories of Jac's extraordinary determination. From July 2009 up to his passing on March 20 this year, Jim Stynes' intentionally invited us all to share in and learn from his story. We are unlikely to ever forget the dignity of his struggle. Anne Lamott in her beautiful book Bird by Bird, refers a few times to a dear inspiring friend who had cancer. Anne recalled her friend’s doctor, when the terminal stages had arrived, remarking that, “in these final weeks, she is showing you how to live.”

Just recently I got an email from Marie. I am pleased to report she is going well again. Why am I telling you her story now? Because in that email she sent this beautiful clip she had made called ‘Do it For Me.’

So this is a shout out to the Mighty Farrug'(*). Thanks for your example Marie. And what's one thing we could all do that could honour that example? I reckon maybe if that person you thought of at the start of this post is a phone call or an email away, how about about simply letting them know that it was their name that you whispered to yourself. Feel free to forward this story to them as well in a 'pay it forward' kind of way.

Thanks for giving yourself the Time & Space to read this.  Who are your mighty mentors? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and stories in the space below.

Bill Jennings

* Pronounciation goes something like this the Mighty Farroodge (Hard 'dg' sound).

Marie's website - http://www.timeforyou.com.au/ 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

IWD 2012- a gift to share

A 'choose you own adventure' post today. Very interactive - click on the click-able bits of the post as you wish.

Here is a gift for you for International Women's Day (the poem at the start is only 3 or 4 minutes). If you are a bloke reading this - pass this on to a great woman in your life.

On first seeing this... it took my breath away. In fact the second woman on the incomplete list below received the hard cover copy of this poem as a gift when she graduated from high school last year. It was given to her by me and the first named woman on the list...

This is an an incomplete list (sorry if I have missed you) that honours: the brilliant women in this blogger's immediate world; women I am lucky to call friend; women who inspire; women who have participated in a Time & Space Mother-Son or Mother-Daughter program (and wrote their name on the evaluation sheet) and, some women I haven't actually met but whose work and ideas I respect.

And this is an incomplete list of course because, as always, you are welcome to join in the discussion in the REPLY box below... feel free to add your honourable mentions and tell us a bit about the great women in your life.

So here goes (in no particular order, except for the first one) ...

Lisa J (aka The Mighty Lisa)... best friend and soul-mate,

Amber J - A young woman with great taste in Indie music (Dan Mangan is a recent addition to this blogger's iTunes account thanks to Amber J). There is a wonderful combination of toughness and gentleness in Amber. The other day I saw her consuming her course reading notes before she actually had her first class on her first day at university. I admire Amber's courage, kindness and zest for life. Me and the Mighty Lisa's first-born.

Joan J - the lady who listened to how my day was at school for thousands of afternoons in the seventies and eighties. She does brilliant work these days as a spiritual director, and granny, amongst many other roles that include being my mum.

Clare McG - super nursing director and mum who is hosting an exchange student, Lara, from Germany this year because well, she thought it would be a great experience for her pre-school and primary school kids. That is generous. Clare is my favourite sister.

Sisters-in-law, Leah, Rita and Nicole (well Nic will officially be my S-I-L by about 4.30pm this coming Saturday), Ann (my sage mum-in-law from Chester, UK) and all of the aunties and cousins (& cousin Col and Aunty Ros from Gruyere) over there. Special mention also to my wonderful nieces... Lucia, Sasha, Ruth and Tierney - young women now or some time soon.

Hilda Jennings, my Nana (RIP) and Grandma (RIP) - my brother Greg (the one who is getting married this weekend) wrote a beautiful blogpost that captures what Grandma meant to us all.

My NSAA friends and colleagues inspiring women doing good work - De, Tania (is writing a blog from a Mum's perspective called 'Surviving Year 12') Taruni, Phillipa, Gillian, Ailsa, Yvonne, Helen Mac, Melina and The Mighty Farrug' (inspiration). Former school teaching car pooling buddies Lizzie and the Harvenator and also Cate, the hardest working person I know, and wise mentor to boot.

Then of course there are all the locals - Robyn, Rosie, Caroline, Clare, Sandra, Pauline, Heidi, Miki, Leeanne, 'LGSpencer', Marnstorming and Moi (have a browse around Moira's CD, One Step Forward - there are songs here so pertinent to this day... she won an award at Port Fairy for Why Not Let a Mother and my favourite Moi song is Until You're Old, a poignant tribute to her mum).

Valerie, Kalindi (hey kids look for the carefully placed affirmation cards from your teacher on your 'vision posters', displayed in your extraordinarily 'finessed' classroom), Christine, Bonnie, Haidee and Sue who helped at the Silkwood School Mother-Son night and Bella, Oceana and Jess who were outstanding panelists at the Father-Daughter night.

Celia Lashlie - Champion delighter in the good news there is to tell about boys. Celia's other strong passion is in support of incarcerated women. One of the best speakers I have ever heard.

Another Celia, Nardis and Julie (love your Compassionate Flow blog Jules) - all have reconnected in recent times. It has been great to be back in touch.

Aunty Joy Murphy-Wandin - a lady who has worked tirelessly, as a bridge between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia. Probably has done more 'welcome to country' ceremonies than anyone. Massive Saints fan.

Sarah Kay - you saw her above in the clip. I love the story about the girl in the hoodie.

Mem Fox - thanks to you and Julie Vivas for Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partidge, my favourite all time picture book.

Leslie Cannold and Cecily (@happychatter) - last year I watched Leslie and Cecily engage in a Twitter debate on the Chaplaincy Funding issue. Different points of view - treated each other with respect. With no wish to be patronising, not a bad lesson in how to have an argument for us fellas.

A thought too for all women in the midst of a health battle on this IWD. Jacinta, we hold you in our heart every day.

And penultimately... here's a few faves from the Twitterverse @rosaliquidink , @peace_ , @SamJaneLane and @alihilltweet

Finally, I salute all the mums and mentors who have turned up at a Time & Space Mother-Son or Mother-Daughter session and if you put your name on an evaluation sheet in the last few years, you should find it here...

Adrianne, Alanah, Alex, Alexandra, Alicia, Alison, Alison, Alison, Alison, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Andrea, Andrea, Andrea, Ange, Angela, Angela, Angela, Angelina, Anita, Anita, Anita, Anita, Anita, Anita, Ann, Ann, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Anne, Annette, Annette, Annette, Anni, Annie, Annie, Antoinette, Barbara, Beatrice, Belinda, Belinda, Belinda, Bernadette, Bernadette, Breeda, Bridget, Bronwyn, Bronwyn, Byron, Carina, Carmel, Carmel, Carmel, Carmel, Carol, Carol, Caroline, Caroline, Caroline , Carolynne, Cate, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, Cathy, Cathy, Cathy, Caz, Cecelia, Celeste, Celia, Cherie, Cheryl, Chris, Christine, Christine, Christine, Cindy, Cindy, Cindy, Claire, Claire, Claire, Clare, Clare, Claudia, Collette, Connie, Cristina, Dani, Daniel, Daniel, Daniella, Deb, Debbi, Debbie, Debbie, Deborah, Delia, Delwyn, Denise, Denise, Diane, Diane, Dianne, Dianne, Dianne, Dina, Dolores, Donna, Donna, Donna, Edwina, Eileen, Elaine, Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elle, Elsie, Emily, Fali, Fanny, Felicia, Felicity, Fiona, Fiona, Fionna, Frances, Francesca, Frankie, Fulvia, G, Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gen, George, Georgie, Geraldine, Geraldine, Gill, Gill, Gillian, Gina, Giulietta, Grace, Grace, Harshini, Hazel, Heidi, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helen, Helena, Huyen, Ida, Ingrid, Ivy, J, J, Jacinta, Jackie, Jacqui, Jacqui, Jacqui, Jacqui, Jai, Jane, Jane, Jane, Jane, Jane, Jane, Janet, Janine, Janine, Janna, Jaqueline, Jayne, Jeannine, Jen, Jen, Jennie, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, Jill, Jo, Jo (regular correspondent on this blog and thanks for the prompt last year Jo - hey Bill, blog more!), Jo, Joanna, Joanne, Joanne, Joanne, Jodie, Jodie, Jody, Jose, Josh, Josie, Joy, Joyce, Judy, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julie, Julienne, June, Justine, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karine, Karmen, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate, Kath, Kath, Kath, Kath, Kathryn, Kathryn, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy, Kathy , Katie, Katrina, Katrina, Kelli, Kelly, Kelly, Kerri, Kerri, Kerrie, Kerrilyn, Kerry, Kerry, Kerry, Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim Ian, Kirsty, Kris, Kylie, Kylie, Kylie, Lauren, Leah, Leane, Leanne, Leanne, Leanne, Leanne , Leigh, Leonie, Leonie, Leonie, Liljana, Lillian, Lina, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Linda, Lindy, Lindy, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Livia, Liz, Liz, Liz, Liz, Loretta, Loretta, Lori, Lou, Louisa, Louise, Lyn, Lynda, Lynette, Lynne, M, M.A., Madeline, Mandi, Mandy, Mandy, Mara, Mara, Maree, Maree, Maree, Maree, Maree, Margaret, Margaret , Margie, Margot, Maria, Maria, Maria, Marianne, Marianne, Marie, Marie, Marina, Marion, Marlies, Marly, Martine, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary Rose, Maura, Meg, Meg, Megan, Megan, Megan, Melanie, Melissa, Melissa, Melissa, Mich, Michele, Michele, Michell, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, Miriam, Molly, Monica, Monica, Monique, Nadia, Naomi, Naomi, Narelle, Nat, Natalie, Natalie, Natasha, Natasha, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, Ornella, Pam, Pam, Pam, Pamela, Pamela, Pati, Patricia, Paula, Pauline, Pauline, Pauline , Pearlyn, Penny, Peta, Peta, Peta, Pina, Pina, Polly, Prue, Prue, Prue , Rachel, Rachelle, Rae, Rebecca, Rhonda, Rina, Rita, Robbie, Robyn, Robyn, Romaine, Roni, Rose, Rose, Rose, Rosemary, Ruth, Ruth, S., Sabine, Sally, Sally, Sally-Ann, Sam, Sam, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra, Sandy, Sara, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Seb, Seema, Sephanie, Shane, Sharen, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, Sharron, Shenna, Sherri, Sheryl, Shikha, Sibi, Siew Lin, Silvia, Sim, Simone, Simone, Simone, Siobhan, Siobhan, Sonia, Sonya, Sonya, Sonya, Sophia, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue-Ellen, Surekha, Susan, Susan, Susie, Susie, Suzanne, Suzette, Sylvia, Talei, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy, Tania, Tania, Tania, Tania, Tanid, Tanya, Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Terri, Theresa, Theresa, Therese, Therese, Therese, Tiffany, Tina, Tina, Tina, Toni, Toni, Tonia, Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Tracey, Tricia, Trish, Trish, Trish, Trudy, Tuyet, Vanda, Veronic, Veronica, Vicki, Vilma, Vita, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Younga.

The usual custom for this blog is that I have got permission in advance from you if your name appears in it. As you can see, this is a different post today. I hope this is OK.

Thanks for reading and Happy International Women's Day (well it's evening now).

Bill Jennings

PS - the first two women mentioned on the honours list are enjoying a celebratory glass of reasonably priced merlot on the couch as this post is published.

Friday, 2 March 2012

An Unexpected Conversation

"Mind if I play with you guys?"

"No worries," I say, shaking hands with the man in the sunglasses, "My name's Bill and this is my son Jack."

"I'm Andrew.”

We are on the first tee of a brilliant little nine-hole course nestled into the foreshore of Apollo Bay, our annual summer holiday spot. One of the beaut’ things about golf... total strangers can walk up and ask 'can I join up with you?' I like it that my 15-year-old has played the game enough to know that this is part of the etiquette.

So we all hit off and so does our conversation – no small talk on the first hole!

"What do you do for a crust Bill?"

I explain the Time & Space programs.

"Right - have you come across any situations where kids have suicided?"

I reply, "Oh, the parent-child programs aren't necessarily for kids who are in trouble. It is for any young person really and their parents."

Andrew explains, "It's just that the boy who was captain of our primary school, a few years ago... just took his life. Real shock to our staff."

"That's awful," I say, fairly amazed at how deep the topic of conversation is for a couple of blokes who have just met... "So you're a teacher Andrew?"

"Yep. Love it - the classroom for the first 18 years. PE specialist for the last twelve."

Andrew is a really good fella... I can tell.

"Gee Andrew - any reason, the boy... why he took his life?" I ask.

"No clue whatsoever," Andrew answers, "it is a complete mystery. We were reeling as a staff at the end of the year when it happened. Such a great kid."

I'm conscious as we talk, my son is quietly taking all of this in.

We tee off on the second.

"Have you got kids Andrew?" I ask.

"Daughter’s the oldest and two sons... 23, 22 and 19 years old," Andrew then pauses... "Yep, they're all doing their thing." There’s a satisfied tone indicating they’re all going well.

Third hole and Andrew asks Jack if he plays sport.

"Yeah soccer," offers the young bloke, "I'm a goalkeeper."

There was genuine interest on Andrew’s part.

We are covering a breadth of topics on every hole. Andrew explains about his oldest two who were heading overseas together. He was really proud of their get up and go.

"They’re not really sure what they want to do career-wise but they've worked hard, saved to make this trip happen."

We talked and enjoyed our golf. We all had a few good hits. Andrew actually chipped in for birdie on the Eighth.

As Jack chipped to the green, I thought back to what Andrew said before… "I liked how you said that all your kids are each doing their thing."

"Yeah, great kids. The youngest one has had his challenges. My nineteen-year-old Brett," Andrew pauses, takes off his sunglasses, "is gay."

Even though we'd only known each other for eight holes of golf, the chats we’d had till then seemed to allow the space for such a personal detail to be shared. What a privilege to be trusted.

"Wow... when did you find out?" I ask.

"He came out when he was sixteen," answered Andrew, "I'll admit it, I cried for about 24 hours but came good after that. The way I see it, my son showed great courage."

Jack has putted, joins us and he picks up the thread of Andrew's story.

Andrew continued, "I asked my son, I said, 'I've only got one question... did you become gay or were you born gay?"

"He told me 'I always thought I was gay dad.'"

It's clear that Andrew admired and supported his son. He learnt that a lot of dads 'go crook' and even worse, sometimes physically abuse their sons if they come out... kick them out of home and never want to see them again.

We are on the last tee now and Andrew remarks, "How do those dads come back from that?" he is perplexed as he says, "I mean someone you love has just come out... that is showing the utmost courage. I said to Brett, who’s highly respected by his peers, 'mate you've just shown the way and made stuff so much easier for other kids.’"

Jack then pipes up... "Yeah, one of the kids at my school came out... on You Tube* actually... you know what was really good about it? No-one gave him any crap."

"I'm pleased to hear it," said Andrew.

We finished our round, shook hands and said goodbye. The three of us had had a pretty extraordinary conversation.

Later in the day, Jack remarked, "Dad, that Andrew, he’s a good bloke."

I agreed.

Thanks for reading and as always, you are welcome to share your responses, your stories in the space below (even if you don't have a Google account, you can log on as anonymous but it would be great if you wrote your name).


* I looked up the clip when writing this article and discovered it was part of a global campaign by many people called ‘It Gets Better’. It includes this video contribution from US President Barack Obama.

And importantly if for any reason you need to talk to someone – you can call…
Lifeline: 13 11 14 Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 551 800 Mensline Australia: 1300 789 978 SANE Helpline - mental illness, support and referral: 1800 18 SANE (7263) Reach Out: http://www.reachout.com/

Friday, 17 February 2012

Breaking News - Volunteers Stuff Envelopes!

A 'mail-out' was conducted in a beautiful house in a leafy green Melbourne suburb on Tuesday night last week. There you go. This is an international scoop for the Time & Space Blog. Now admittedly, it has been a big news week. If you are reading this sometime after publication – here’s what else has happened: Whitney Houston died last Saturday; Greece is on the brink of economic default and the world is watching as hundreds are murdered in Syria every day. Still, having sat on this mail-out story for ten days now, the big media outlets have had their chance.

The St Kevin's College Fathers Association support a lot of bonding experiences for the boys of the school and their mums, dads and mentors. With the help of some key people on the school staff (who get the printing, the labels and envelopes ready), this committee promote the programs organising practical things like this mail-out to let families know about them.

So who are the heroes of this world exclusive? Jerome, Kaz and his wife Nancy, Onofrio (that’s Italian for ‘Humphrey’ which means 'peaceful warrior' – I found that out on that thing they call the World Wide Web), Stan and Sergio, joined Adrian, Judith and their kids in their home. The envelopes were stuffed in 90 minutes. They first program batch of letters were posted the next day. Job done.

So there is the news. You’re dumbfounded… earth shattering revelation – yes? You’ll never forget where you were when read this first – right?

OK – let’s remove the tongue from the cheek for a moment and have a look at three subtle things that were happening at this event.

1. Walking up the driveway, a young primary school girl was stretching forward on the trampoline, reading a book.

“Is this where the meeting is for the St Kevin’s dads?”

“Yes” says the girl, glancing at a timer in her hand, intently focusing on the book. Her eyes hardly looked up.

Adrian, her dad, opens the door and welcomes me in. A few minutes later, the young lady wanders in.

“Bill, have you met Grace?”

“Very briefly” I answer, “Grace told me, just before, that I was at the right address… which was really nice of her cos’ I could see she was very busy.”

I discover she was timing her nightly twenty minute reading session. She smiles and explains, “That was why I couldn't show you in. I had to finish my reading”.

“That’s a great habit to form Grace – really impressive how serious you are about it,” I say.

Adrian and Grace then just banter about the day and a delightful exchange between father and daughter transpires quite naturally. The everyday family routine was happening before me.

2. As the mail out crew arrived, the jobs were sorted and the team got underway. This is when we met Alex, Adrian and Judith's oldest. He came downstairs and was invited to help out for a while... folding, stuffing envelopes, joining in. He was happily engaging in the chat. Letting the other dads and mums know how his start to the year had gone. A few opinions about Year 7 & 8 rivalry were shared. For a few minutes, he was our fellow helper.

Earlier I'd said to Adrian... "You're good to be hosting this and you've been on the committee for a while now. Very generous of you to give up your time. I think your kids will remember that you chipped in and got involved."

I explained how my dad used to run mail-outs in our dining room for the Old Collegians Association at my school. Adrian’s dad got involved in school things too. We swapped a few stories, remembering our parents’ efforts. They weren't perfect - sometimes embarrassing but they were in there with their sleeves rolled up - having a go.

3. The banter was lively and fun throughout the job. Lots of friendly jibes. Some of the team were playfully competing to be as quick as they could. There was laughter happening as the work was done. Observations about modern life were shared.

When he arrived, Onofrio was asked where his cup cakes were. In his time on the committee, he has built a reputation as a cup cake master chef. At a later moment I ask him a bit about it.

"I like doing it. It is 'time-out' for me," Onofrio explains.

Adrian offers cups of tea and coffee. He opens a bottle of wine. Judith brings over a plate of really yummy cheese and nibbles.

Job finished and the group relaxes. Serg had got there a bit later. He explained that he had a bit on but still wanted to come. As a few planning matters are discussed, I let Serg know he will be getting a call to help out at the upcoming Father-Son night.

"No need to call, when is it?" asks Serg. He checks his phone diary as I give him the date.

"I'm free” he says, “it's locked in."

So what do you think the headlines are for this good news story?

Primary school girl, reads book uninterrupted for 20

Teenage boy helps group of adults with task – joins in the

Family welcome people into the home. Generous volunteers
complete mail-out and enjoy each others’ company!
Of course, we know this volunteer work party is not the sort of story that CNN, News Limited or the ABC are going for as their number 1 item of the week. But… parents do help their kids develop good habits… teenagers chip in and help others, showing signs that they are on their way to being young adults… people get together and volunteer. These things happen every day… all over the world. And it is good news.

In getting Adrian’s permission to post this story he emailed back his ‘OK’ with this message…

It is funny that the things you mentioned I had never given any thought to. This
is my fourth year in the association and the other night felt like having good
friends around rather than conducting a meeting.
I'm convinced that it is the little efforts like this... these people 'turning up' that: embed the memory for future generations to follow their example. It is this sort of generosity that makes the difference between us living in a society rather than just an economy. To all the volunteers reading this. I salute you!

As always feel free to offer your reflections, your memories and insights in the space below.

Bill Jennings

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Father Bob & the 'YB' have Entered the Building

"So... do you want me to come in with you?" I ask.

The young bloke (aka YB), our #2 child, and #1 son, and I sit this morning in the car park of his new senior high school. He is starting in Year 10 today.

There is a typical pause. It could be his own considered thinking which has always been fairly deliberate or the combination of 15 year-old vagueness mixed with the general vague state he has inherited from his dad.

There is still more think time. Then...

"Nah, I'll be right."

More silence and we sit there looking at the school building.

"So what happens now... I just go to Reception?", YB asks.

"Yeah, I think there will be people there waiting for you like they did on your orientation day, giving out timetables and showing you where to put your stuff."

"OK, see ya dad." A considered handshake is exchanged. I let him know that I am proud to be his dad and he waves without looking back as he takes a heavy, first-day-bag into his new school. The earliest year level at this senior high is his year, so he is starting on an even footing with all the other kids. I sit here wondering how he is going. A lot of people are having first days this week...

Father Bob Maguire had his first full day at his new address yesterday after 38 years at his old one. For the benefit of those in Australia who live in a media black-out, and readers overseas, here is what happened at his last Sunday morning mass as Parish Priest at St Peter and St Paul's in South Melbourne this past weekend.

Father Bob at 77, 'orthodox but unconventional' as he likes to describe himself, has moved on from his parish... the base from which he carried out many services, not just as a traditional parish priest but as the leader of an army of volunteers who serve people who have fallen on hard times. The disenfranchised, the homeless, the prostitutes, the mentally ill, the elderly and disadvantaged young people of South Melbourne, Port Melbourne and St Kilda, rely on the practical outreach of The Father Bob Maguire Foundation. Many of you will know that the controversy of his move, stems from the wish that he did not want to leave his home, his base from which he was able to exercise his ministry. Bob's parish gave him identity. Being a parish priest enabled him to have some handle, a good kind of authority that auspiced his public role and outreach.

Where the hypocrisy of attention by the hierarchy, on Bob's forced retirement, has been widely reported, I have watched from a perspective of concerned comrade, with an awareness that for Bob, he was being symbolically and perhaps psychologically orphaned by his current day 'family', the institutional church - something that had happened to him as a kid. F-Bob's (as this comrade calls him) dad and mum passed away when he was 12 and 13. He fended forward with the help of his older brother and friends and that tough, unconventional perspective must have been formed in that adversity. An endearing resilience that has shown in the last couple of years may well have been borne in those days when a young teenager had to use his wits to make his way in the world, without the security of even one parent being around.

Change is tough and in the lead up to the young bloke's first day at a new school, there's been a bit of moodiness. Unlike Father Bob, he chose to move to a new place. We asked him to have a think about what was the right place for him. He liked his old school (and so did his mum and me) but he felt, on balance the new place offers a number of good opportunities. That doesn't mean the decision wasn’t tough. It doesn't mean his imperfect dad hasn't had a few flare ups as the young bloke has dealt with the decision to change in the last couple of months. We could be in the middle of a heated argument and then I'm struck by the notion - 'he's worried about the move'. Similarly, I heard Father Bob interviewed on the ABC Conversation Hour before Christmas. The anger, near bitterness, that was in his voice was palpable. It was raw and tough to listen to. Other friends' heard it and we shared similar reflections. That's the key though, people have responded and shown their care. Bob has rawly expressed his feelings, his 'truth' throughout, and on Sunday over 1000 people turned up and showed support. They are part of the big family that F-Bob’s unique perspective on life, has brought together. I reckon his own kindness, heart for the underdog, has come back at him in spades. Good people have fuelled his resilience to move on to the next chapter.

I'm mindful, as dad to my daughter and son... that they gain fuel for accepting change through life as people who love them, and care about what happens to them, wish them well as they take on the next challenge - some harder than others. We can't take away the challenges they face but we can turn up in their lives - especially at the important moments.

At his final mass on Sunday, the shift was palpable in Father Bob - he had accepted the change, and was moving on. The service had a bit of everything... Bob's irreverent humour, a beautiful song by war victim and refugee, Emmanuel Kelly - an inspiring young man, a Scottish bagpipe band that led Bob out after the final song 'Glory, Glory Hallelujah' that contains the words... 'the truth goes marching on'.

And what is that 'truth' for this story? Change, difficult shifts, will always happen to us. They will always happen to the people we care about. When they enter their new buildings like Father Bob and the young bloke have this week... that's when they need us to be there for them.

Who has been there for you in a moment of change? Who are you looking after right now? As always, feel free to write your own thoughts below. Thanks for reading.

Bill Jennings