What to do when things don't go to plan.
Nothing ever goes to plan.
If it did, I wouldn't have hit middle age so soon. I'd still be savouring the sweetness of my youth; that delicious time between High School and Proper Work. A time when anything - and everything - seemed possible.
Back then, the unfolding of life seemed clear cut. I'd be married by my mid 20's. I'd have as many as five kids by the age of 35. Yes, 5. I wanted that many back then. I'd be practicing as a speech pathologist, a career I had my heart set on since the age of 13. And I'd be living in Hawthorn, Melbourne. In a double fronted Victorian terrace, no less.
Fast forward to today.
I live in Heathcote, in a 3 bedroom country cottage. Indeed there are mountain views and a wrap-around veranda. But the only similarity between this house and Hawthorn, is perhaps the lack of insulation.
I am childless. Or, as I prefer to say, I am "with fur child". Maggie, my red-heeler, fills my heart with such warmth, that I don't think it's possible to love anything - or anyone - more. Except of course my husband, Trevor ;) So surely my life is 'fulfilled?'
I am not a speech pathologist. I am a writer and a community engagement specialist, who is ridiculously enthusiastic about the advancement of Australia's small towns and rural communities. Some may say, too enthusiastic. But I say, it's far better to be filled with purpose, than to be empty with apathy.
So, as you can see, very little went to plan. But things are unfolding beautifully, if I just let go - and allow.
Last week, Australian demographer Bernard Salt (aka Mr Smashed Avo) wrote about the importance of rural towns and communities 'galvanising'; developing a vision, a plan for the future. A very far and distant one that.
Galvanising. Sheesh, I hate that word.
The day I read Mr Salt's article, I wrote a little commentary. You can get a copy here.
Basically, the crux is, S%^& happens.
Small townships don't need a twenty-thirty-year plan. They need one for today. As Elvis says, "a little less conversation and more action". As Business Chicks Global CEO Emma Isaacs says on the front cover of her new book:
Winging It: Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Why Action Beats Planning Every Time.
Simply, what works for one town, may not work for another.
But, when people feel that they are heard, and they feel they have permission to CREATE, it's amazing the kinds of problems that can be solved.
Regional people need less "city expertise" and consultation from afar. They want real people to come. To listen and to care. Especially in the face of unplanned change, to help them uncover their courage, creativity and faith.
This weekend, I'm headed up to Boort, a small, but beautiful town in the Mallee. The people are hurting - both banks have ceased services. And their GP medical service may go too - if a replacement is not found by 1 November. I'm not going up there to try to 'fix' anything. I'm going up there to listen. I going there to LISTEN and ask a few open ended questions. If you'd like a copy of these findings, then please EMAIL email@example.com
Do you live in the Kilmore area? I've been working with Steph Ryan, MP to develop a 16 page township magazine that showcases the people and community groups of Kilmore. Steph is launching the guide on the morning of Saturday 6 October. It's been a pretty epic project and over 110 people have been interviewed. If you'd like to come to the launch, please let me know. Tickets are free, but space is limited.
Organisational Development expert, Vanessa North and I are heading to Gippsland, VIC on a Connect, Learn, Grow roadshow in mid-September. We will be running a series of workshops and talks in 4 towns*. They are wholly aimed at strengthening the capacity of people whose work it is to "improve the lives of others".
For more info, e: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Leongatha, Traralgon, Sale & Bairnsdale