I was born in India, studied in the US and moved to Australia 11 years ago. From early on, I was keen for my family to integrate into Australian culture. I think we’ve been doing that pretty well. But we’ve also adopted some traditional values from my culture that align closely with the ethos of The Men’s Table about ‘mine and ours’.
In many ways, I consider myself Australian. I have a business that is based in the Aussie bush. When we decided to buy a home we chose an area that had a cross-section of cultures. I didn’t want to be living surrounded only by my traditional culture. But we’ve also adopted some of the values that arise from my traditional culture.
In our business, we have brothers, wives, daughters and previously fathers working together. My brother and his family live near us and we don’t really live as if he has his house, and I have my house. Instead, the houses are ours. We refer to the houses by the places we spent time. I lived in Singapore, and my sister-in-law is from Malaysia. So if our kids are asking us where dinner is tonight, for example, we don’t say it’s at ‘my house’. We say dinner is at Singapore. Or tomorrow night’s dinner is in Malaysia.
This extends to the space within our homes. Our basic policy is that bedroom doors are never closed, except when someone needs to get dressed. In this way, we’re encouraging our teenage kids to see their room as ‘ours’, not ‘mine.’ Same with cars. Same with mobile phones. Everyone has access to my mobile phone and knows the password. When I travel to other parts of the country or world where I’ll be staying with family, I don’t need to carry much luggage. I can open the wardrobe of my Uncle’s and help myself to a shirt. One time, he said.. ‘Please don’t wear that shirt. My wife gave it to me for our wedding anniversary and I haven’t worn it yet. But take anything else you like’. That was all good. As I looked through, I found one that looked vaguely familiar. “I think you left that one here last time you came” he laughed.
A lot of this stems from the philosophy we were raised with that nothing belongs to you, that we are just custodians for a short time. The house you lived in used to belong to another person, and will belong to someone else a few years from now. We can make our lives miserable by creating a sense of belonging and attachment. This sort of resonates with the philosophy of the Australian Aboriginals as well.
This is quite a difference to the typical way of living for most Aussies. Mostly, there are very clear boundaries about what’s mine and what’s yours. Most teenage kids are horrified if anyone walks into ‘their’ room. And their phone is right off-limits to everyone else. Same goes for our properties, and cars, and all our valuable possessions. So there is a really clear sense of ownership of what’s mine.
What I notice at the Men’s Table is there’s a really nice blend between mine and ours.
The ‘mine’ part is the sharing. What I share is very personal to me. We’re encouraged to use ‘I’ statements and to speak from our own experience. So in this way, the Table is very much about my sharing and your sharing, my feelings and your feelings. But the commitment to the overall Table is ‘ours’. I think it can only really work if we each take the mindset of ‘our’ Table. If people are only in it for themselves, then the spirit of serving each other won’t be as strong.
I think at my Table, we’ve really created a strong feeling of ‘ours’ and it is a big part of our success.
Like the Fundamentals say; ‘The commitment is to be part of a community – not just what’s in it for me’. I hope that men at other Tables can also see the value in thinking of their Table as “ours”
Stig’s Story is an anonymous story shared by one of the men at a500 calorie diet plan pdfMen’s Table. We invite you to share your story anonymously too.
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