Fire my spirit

So goes the last line of the simple song 75 men and young men at the Essentially Men Pathways to Manhood gathering sang together as we waited to be met by mothers and family yesterday. Sitting here right now there is so much to reflect on that has truly fired the spirit of my son Tim and me too.

This was a gritty, hard, challenging week with men. Great men who shared, endorsed, inspired and challenged us all. Never have I felt so proud and so sad all at once. It took a few days but when Tim found his voice, man, did we hear it. A school life of bullying and being picked on because he wears glasses, because he doesn’t see as well as others, because of this, that and it didn’t matter what. Any bloody excuse will do. Bullying turned to a stone-like resistance built out of fear of failure. Adults then embark ed on their own special form of bullying – bludgeoning into submission,  challenging in his face: What is it Tim? Is it about you only? What is your problem?.

In your 17 years Tim you have faced challenges that few can understand, but I tell you Tim, and you know this, 75 men who love and admire you know.  And they were there for you and are there now for you. When they said sorry on behalf of all the boys and men who have bullied you, they meant it. You stand tall now.  You have greater strength than all of those bullies put together. The boy is gone. You are a young man.  You want more one-on-one with me.  You will have it. You fire my spirit more than you can imagine. I love you.

And let’s reflect on what the men said about you: Strong, a great conservationist who extends the topic, funny, you want to please, courageous, cool to hang out with, a sensational smile, resilient, independent and they said you should cherish your ability to think outside the norm. I could go on and on how they affirmed you.

They want you back next year to help out. And let’s not forget the Golden Pisspot award you won for the the Young Pathways Man (you better explain to the women where pisspot comes from!).

This journey gave me a deep reflective space to get my own life in balance. Thanks to all the men at the gathering. You are special and formed to deliver one of life’s crucibles for me.

All the elements are with you Tim. Stand tall and proud. The men all stand with you. Thank you for taking me.

Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath, fire my spirit.

Stephen

Lighting a torch

Tim and I went shopping this weekend in preparation for our 6 days camping on the Essentially Men father/son retreat. We bought polyprop tops, camping lights, a new pocket knife (as instructed) for Tim and torches.

My good friend Nigel phoned from Christchurch this afternoon to suggest that one of the most valuable pieces of equipment we could bring was a head lamp: “when it’s dark on camp it’s dark, so you can do whatever you want with a torch strapped to your head”.

This retreat has been a long-time coming and Tim has been very brave in agreeing to go into the unknown with me and a group of other guys.

I’m excited and apprehensive. My hope this week is that Tim sees the way forward from boy to young man. It’ll be big for me too I’m sure.

We’ve got those head lamps ready.

See you in a week.

Stephen

Why is your Whanau not in the Wharekai?

Some random thoughts are swirling around me right now and will hopefully gain some structure as I write. It’s been a big weekend. My teenage son Tim was staying with me although I abandoned him on Friday night for dinner at the Committee for Auckland’s Future Leaders Programme opening held at the Wharekai on the Orakei Marae. I lived in Orakei in the 1990s but had never experienced the spectacular views out, and feeling in, of the Marae.  Children intermingled with the adults and speakers, unimpressed, or should I say unchanged, by our presence.

Saturday morning is my long run-day – Scenic Drive beckoned and so a trot from the shops at Titirangi to Mountain Road and return was done. Saturday evening was for a good friends 40th and a speech in which he declared “The one thing I haven’t been doing right is spending time with each and everyone of you.  That is going to change”.

Sunday morning was back to the Marae where we delivered our introduction to the Programme for the Leadership workshops that the Centre for Innovative Leadership is now privileged to be delivering for this cohort. We talked about trust, about authenticity – “it’s actually a really simple concept” said one participant and then added “but hard”. So we’re excited about the opportunity of working with this group of senior leaders. I very much look forward to growing with them and being a part of their journey.  Go well!

A university get-together at lunch and at 3.00pm I finally set eyes properly on Tim. Selfish? Too busy? Guilty your honour.

This evening I visited Pathways to Manhood to discuss the upcoming retreat that Tim and I are going to go on in April. Whatever we do, feedback, reflection, timeout and sharing quality time with family are important. Yeah, good words, what about the weekend?  “I’ll take Tim to dinner tonight”.  “Is that to make up for the time you didn’t spend with him in the weekend?”

It is actually. Are your Whānau good enough for the Wharekai? Of course they are. Be there. It means everything. Sorry Tim.

Dad.


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