A little more than a year ago, a man took a tiny action, inviting me to a Men’s Table Entree. Neither he nor I could have anticipated the grand results of that small gesture. To honour his gift, I give you this accounting of what I’ve received in my first year at Men’s Table.
1. They’ve introduced me to ocean swimming where every Saturday at 6am, rain, shine, winter or summer, a group of us voluntarily face multiple fears induced by cold surf, crashing waves, rolling swell, bluebottles and stinging showers. All for the
promise of a hot coffee at Coogee beach.
2. They’ve assisted me in addressing confounding tech issues, complex human resource and business management challenges and even the vexatious intricacies of international taxation.
3. They’ve joined my regular men’s yoga class.
4. They’ve whole-heartedly participated in excellent first responder suicide prevention training where, quite by surprise, I got help breathing new life into a stalled bathroom renovation.
5. They’ve given me an opportunity to host a zoom session about non-violent communication that continues to reverberate at tables and in homes.
6. They’ve rekindled my early love for auto mechanics.
7. They’ve performed music and sung with me.
8. They’ve provided fire pits and ovens by which I’ve burned and bonded over a kilo of gourmet Swiss cheese.
9. They let me play a role in a recent training video, reaffirming a love for acting that has smouldered for 45 years.
10. Most recently, six men from MT22 turned out at my Wild West 60th birthday bash to brainstorm the theme, organise the schedule, do the shopping for 70 guests, decorate the room, create and serve themed drinks, create and display a photo timeline six decades long, deliver ice, sing “Rawhide,” tend the alcohol-free ‘bar’, emcee the show, burn sparklers, provide a sound track, distribute bandanas, sport fake moustaches, staff the welcome desk, fill the piñata and when all was done, clean up and remove the rubbish. They gave and gave with good humour and love.
That’s quite a list of ‘doings.’ And there’s a long list of ‘beings.’
Together we’ve been vulnerable and honest. We’ve shared personal insights and revelations, exposed our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, admitted our failings, voiced our fears, sought and accepted help, apologised for our trespasses and celebrated our victories both large and small.
The abundance is coming my way via a willingness to both give help when asked and perhaps more importantly, to ask and receive help. In roughly equal measures, both giving and receiving. It’s a balancing act and only works when I engage in both sides of the equation.
I have received so many gifts and graces in twelve short months that I’m nearly giddy with joy. My cup runneth over. And as much as I have been able, I’ve used words and actions to convey my gratitude to the men who’ve made this possible.
With one large exception. Because there is one man I’ve been unable to reach.
Last December, after vulnerably sharing with our newest member my own battles with addiction, I directly asked this man why he hadn’t shared that night. He told me he liked to ‘remain in the background and let others do the talking.’ I accepted his answer without knowing it would be our final conversation.
By January, this very same man, a man who had just weeks before posted that Men’s Table invitation that got me to the table, was gone. And it wasn’t till then that I learned he was carrying a lot of personal and professional losses. His marriage had ended and he wasn’t getting work. Some big props had been kicked from under him and he’d apparently run out of hope.
Sadly, this man will never get to know about any of the gifts I’d received from his simple act of creating a Facebook post. He won’t know that his little action has unleashed a cascade of meaningful connection for several men.
So as I take stock of my rewarding year, I’m considering how best to honour his legacy. For me the answer is simple. I will continue sharing, listening and speaking in equal measure. Because his loss has reinforced a fundamental human lesson. For as long as I am able, I’ll keep playing my part, both giving and receiving, offering and accepting. Tis the season. Forgiving.