As one nearing ‘three score years and ten,’ it is hard to know how much to include in such an article about myself, the good, the bad or the ugly? Since finishing my coffin, I did wonder if this summary of my life could complete the set by forming part of my Eulogy.
My twin brother and I, along with two sisters, made up my family of origin. We lived in Epping where the family had lived for several generations. We grew up in a very strict, church-going family where personal independence was not only encouraged, but essential for survival. Once we finished school we were on our own and had all left home to establish lives of our own. All my siblings chose to become school teachers, but not me! I left home looking for new experiences and adventure! I had heard of a need for people to help bridge the gaps between how Aboriginal communities operated and the government expectations placed on them!
So, at 19 years of age I boarded a plane bound for Darwin, having signed up for a two-year contract working with families as they manoeuvred through welfare paperwork and encouraging children to reach their potential. Certainly, I found that I had more questions than answers, especially the question: “who did I think I was to come into their world and expect them to live like me?” There was much to admire about their understanding of ‘family’ and their care for each other. What saddened me was the impact of alcohol on the community and how we (as white people) judged according to ‘whitemen’ expectations.
During these years I wrestled with many of the difficult questions in life, i.e. why are we here, what makes people tick, the birth lottery, suffering, injustice, racism, contentment and worth. What is important? Returning to Sydney, I worked to save enough to put myself through tertiary education and to establish some direction for my life. As a Christian, I felt I lacked understanding of what it meant to live according to the Scriptures and as a follower of Jesus. This led me to sign up at Morling College to undertake Theological studies.
During these years of study, my twin brother was diagnosed with melanoma cancer and subsequently passed away two years later! At this point ‘those hard questions’ became painful and I became desperate for answers, not any answers but answers that satisfied!
Graduating from Theological College, my quest for answers led me to embark on post graduate qualifications in Counselling and Pastoral Care. It was possibly at this point that my studies, questions and experiences in life helped me to move on from my pain and care for others. The natural path was to work in fields of bereavement, family counselling, chaplaincy, pastoral care, community education etc. After ten years of walking with people in pain I was very close to ‘burning out’ and in need of a big dose of celebrating happiness and joy in peoples’ lives.
At this point, following my ordination and accreditation as a Baptist Pastor, I accepted an invitation to join the pastoral team at Epping Baptist church. Seven years later I moved to Thornleigh Baptist. As part of my ministry at Thornleigh, I led a group on a pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago (an 800 km trip, commencing in France and concluding in Spain). Wow! What a life changing experience it was. I came home inspired to make some significant changes to my life!
Over the next five years, I analysed all aspects of my life, the physical, emotional, my health, stress levels, expectations on myself, priorities, who I was accountable to and with whom I would spend my time! My ‘mid-life crisis’ that enabled me to move to a place of ‘living life’, and not just ‘surviving’ life resulted in semi-retirement and tapping into my creative side, giving my head and heart a rest!
My twin and my father were both Woodwork teachers and my grandfather a builder, so I have grown up with wood and have a real love for timber. The motto at home was “only buy what you are unable to build.”
Whilst at Bunnings in Dural one day, Ian Raper was handing out Hornsby Woodworking Men’s Shed fliers. I made the comment that I would love to join yet my gender prevented this. To my surprise and delight Ian corrected my thinking. He said that the Shed welcomed lady members and that a number had joined.
Relieving Pastors during their holiday leave, allowed me time to explore the Shed and see if it was what I was looking for. The skill base, knowledge and experience within the members is enormous and their willingness to share their talent is indeed beneficial to novice woodworkers (especially when you are highly independent and instant gratification is your biggest liability). Hopefully, by the time I need to use my coffin these will not feature in my personality!
Since joining the Shed, I have hand-made every gift I have given (Christmas, birthdays, weddings etc.) I have given all recipients something made from my hands and heart, each one resulting in varying levels of appreciation!
My two years at the Shed have greatly contributed to me achieving a more balanced life. Finally, both sides of my brain are in sync and I am well on my way to slowing down enough to smell the wood! Some of the fruits of my labours are shown below.
Louise Pollock (Rev)