In the extension arena, we often talk about managing change. We talk about capacity and resilience and making changes to improve our own lives and our communities. It’s not just about taking the latest technology and applying it – but to have thoughtfully learned from our experiences and training and weighing up what to apply across our social, economic, environmental landscape.
My father, Keith Coutts, died recently. It is a time of change in our extended family. Someone who was always there – back in my ‘home town’ – is there no longer. And somehow, the rest of us fit back into normal life and move on to take his place in life’s march.
How do you sum up the meaning of your father’s life to yourself? At the funeral, I had a chance to speak and reflect and wondered what I could possibly say that could capture even a window into that link and relationship. I chose a short moment in our lives when, as I put it, our lives converged. Dad was a blacksmith welder (among other things – father, husband, church elder, scout leader) and lived almost all of his life in Ayr, North Queensland. I left Ayr at 17 and went off to start my career in agriculture and rural development and seemed to spend my life moving around, changing jobs and living in different places and countries.
However, there was a particular point of convergence. My parents visited Robyn and I (and our then 2 little girls) when we were volunteering at a place called ‘Christian Leaders Training College’ in Papua New Guinea. I was managing a poultry farm and Robyn worked in the preschool area. This was my parents’ first time out of Australia – and it was quite a privilege that they visited us in this remote spot of the world. I was tasked at the time with building a security fence around our layer sheds – the ‘raskols’ had started stealing in earnest and the tide needed to be stemmed! This is where Dad’s ‘blue collar’ work met my ‘degree’ (and practically-challenged) career and we spent time together building the fence. He showed me, for example, that you could line up a post on one side of the road with one on the other by using a hose full of water!
So there was the convergence – in a distant country together; in a ‘church’ setting; and working manually to bring about a management need. I’m not sure that our lives ever converged again in the same way – but that moment never left me.
Resilience. Being able to move on and use our inner and social capacity that we have built up over life time – and take what life throws at us…or the opportunities that present to us! Being in the capacity building game, I hope I get a chance to have impact on my own family – and others – in some small way.