Saturday, March 03, 2007

double dose

I've just written my theoretically monthly Resident Friend report for Monthly Meeting. In reality it is the first for several months, what with my parents visiting, Summer Gathering organising, being ill and then it simply getting missed off the agenda (and me quietly letting it stay off!) it just hasn't happened.

I was pulling together a few facts and figures for it.

2005 - Bed & Breakfast guest nights 190, income about $4,200
2006 - Bed & Breakfast guest nights 501, income about $8,950

This could explain where the year went! (I arrived mid October 2005). I never did get my 'quiet time' through the winter - quieter I'll grant you but still more guest nights per month than my predecessors had in most busy summer months.

So what happened? Well about 30 bed nights or so were various YFs staying here because I was here but otherwise I'm not sure it was because of me! Well maybe it was... but more because of my inability to say no (that well known Quaker trait...) which has seen Friends double up and share rooms, sleep 'marae style' on mattresses on the Quaker Centre floor and there be days when the sheets were barely dry on the line before they were back on the bed.

Some may say I've made a rod for my own back and I should just say no to people and get some time off (I've just had three weeks solid of guests) but that to me isn't the point. There are just four guest beds here in two twin rooms and a pile of mattresses in the Quaker Centre. I’ve tended to have a ‘there’s no such thing as no room at the inn’ policy. Sure fitting 8 round the table for breakfast can be a squeeze but we've managed 14 YFs in here for dinner before now (at which point we did finally concede that the table wasn’t big enough – but we’ve regularly had 10 round it before!). There have been some amazing conversations over breakfast on those mornings as a blitzlike camaraderie kicks in, and usually I get a hand with the dishes! Cancelled ferries and planes (this is Wellington after all…), family crisis and typical Kiwi last minute spontaneity are usually behind the overflow into the Quaker Centre.

The long awaited renovations finally started in October and are still going on but people have been warned that they’ll have to take the place as they find it and everyone has been remarkably adaptable and 'regulars' have enjoyed watching things gradually change and take shape.

There are a number of Kiwi Friends now who are ‘regulars’ and this has given me a wonderful opportunity to develop an ongoing friendship with them and it creates a space for 'serial' conversations to occur. The B&B aspect of the work brings me into contact with a wide number and variety of Friends from up and down the country and across the world. As something of a compulsive networker this feels like a job made in heaven! My years spent working with FWCC Europe & Middle East Section, for the World Gathering of Young Friends and attending the FWCC Triennial in 2004 means there is seldom a YM where I don’t know or know of someone. Having the International list of YMs to hand, not to mention several address lists, and knowing where to look on the Internet has enabled several people to find Friends in future destinations.

For many Wellington Young Friends GFH has become somewhat of a drop-in centre, for others I’ve been someone who is around during the day when most people aren’t so I get phone calls asking ‘how windy/wet is it, do you think I should drive in or get the bus?’ from those out of town; I get to be a courier staging post, left luggage department and occasionally lost property collection point.

One of my favourite passages from Britain YMs ‘Questions and Counsel’ (which preceded the current ‘Advices & Queries’) has always been No 29 – How can you make your home a place of friendship, refreshment and laughter, a peaceful place where God becomes more real to all who are there? Do you recognize the needs of each member of your family and household, including your own?’

To me that is what being Resident Friend here has been about – my family, my whanau here is most definitely made up of those from what I would consider my ‘iwi’ of Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri - Quakers. My household are those who pass through the doors for however long or often that might be. Do I look after myself? Hmmm, well some reading this would argue not, but I do try! And I do make sure I shut the door between my space and the guest bedrooms when I need to. But above all it has most definitely been a place of friendship, refreshment, many tears and much laughter. As for the rest, well you’d better ask those who have passed through the doors...

Having GFH here is in my eyes Wellington MM's gift to the wider community of Friends. They may not see many of the guests at Meeting for Worship; many are unaware of the way this place has become the focal point for a growing and increasingly strengthened YF community. They themselves may not take part in the networking between Friends that goes on over breakfasts and whilst making a cuppa in the hallway - yet knowingly or otherwise they benefit from the added cohesion this brings to our YM and wider international family of Friends, fromt he way it makes possible for Friends to attend committee meetings far from home as they stay here between flights, buses, trains and ferries, from the way having a Ffriendly base offers nurture and a peaceful, easily accessible haven to Friends in need of a place to stay. It is a form of outreach to those friends and relatives of Friends who stay here, it is a living witness to our caring for each other.

John & Alan who take over from me in April get the usual RF stint of a year. Having 18 months has been hard work at times but above all a blessing rather than a burden. Twice the expected work with half the usual number of bodies to do it has been a challenge, and one that I hope I have managed to meet without too many hiccups. In October last year I was very glad I'd got longer - a year just didn't seem like enough, but now I'm feeling ready to move on and take on the next challenge, whatever that may be.

(some of this post previously appeared in an article in the NZ Friends Newsletter - so apologies to the few of you who may well have been getting a sense of deja vue... I'm fairly sure I've not posted it here already!)

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