The story goes, how some years ago now, a Swedish industrialist was reading his morning paper over breakfast and to his amazement read his own obituary. Obviously, the newspaper had reported on the death of the wrong man.

The man read on, intent on finding out what would be said about him, assuming he was dead. The column heading read, “Dynamite king dies”. As he was reading the text underneath, he was surprised at the description of him as, ‘a merchant of death’. He was the rich inventor of dynamite and the manufacturer of weapons and explosives.

He was concerned at this description of himself as ‘a merchant of death’. From that point on he devoted his energy and money to works of peace and human betterment.

Today of course he is better known, not as ‘the merchant of death’, but as the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was Alfred Nobel.

William Shakespeare said,The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”. In Alfred Nobel’s case, he got prior warning of how he would be seen by future generations and he decided to do something positive about it.

Perhaps it might be an interesting exercise for all of us to examine how we’re living our life at the moment and consider how we might be seen by others after our death.

It’s never too late to change our ways. Particularly if it means offering help and support to those in our family and community, instead of concentrating on our own wellbeing and importance.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Safety and Health

It had taken some effort to crawl under the family caravan. It was hot and the dusty ground was hard on his back. Yet he managed to get into a suitable position where he could drill the two holes needed in the metal frame.

As he was about to commence his work, he realised he had forgotten to get his safety glasses from the shed. The thought of crawling back out from his cramped position was enough for him to say to himself; “Ah, she’ll be right, only two holes to drill and then I’m out of here”.

As the day wore on it became evident that he had something irritating in his eyes, so he tried the old eyebrow over eyelash and blow your nose trick, but that didn’t work. Neither did the eyedrops kept in the fridge for such an event offer any relief. Still the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude persisted, even into the next day.

It was only because it became hard to sleep that he realised he should do something about it. So, at midnight he arrived at the emergency entrance of the local hospital and joined the Saturday night queue, along with blood besmeared accident victims and others obviously ill and needing medical assistance.

Fortunately, the hospital was equipped with an optical consultation room and it was here he was informed he had pieces of steel in both eyes. The pain deadening drops were a relief, but then came the removal process, which had to be done by flipping the metal pieces out with a blunt needle.

Having survived this attack, he was next informed that because of the time he had taken to have the steel removed, rust had formed on his eyeballs. This required removal with a torch like battery operated shaft containing a small grinder. At the successful completion of this process, his eyes were thoroughly checked and he was informed he was very fortunate he had not done permanent damage to his eyesight.

And the moral of the story is that it is just as important to recognise safety and health issues at home as it is in the workplace.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Our hectic days are full of mini-stresses, decision making, constant communications, traffic, work, family needs and even the expectations others have of us.

Australia is becoming more urbanised and the majority of us live in, or near, large cities. Unlike our early ancestors whose lives centred around living in natural environments, we have had to adapt to city life and the pressures and stresses associated with urban living.

We can’t all live in the country, but if we consider nature as a place of peace, calm and rest, then we might consider escaping our city living occasionally to refresh our minds and our spirits and breathe in pollution-free air.

A natural environment, such as watching ocean waves rolling into the shore, the flames in a fire or birds in the forest trees can give us a sense of awe, satisfaction and peace. By concentrating on the softness of nature we can reverse our negative feelings into positive ones.

Going for a walk in the bush or just looking up at the stars on a clear night won’t necessarily erase grief or physical pain but it will allow our brain to rest from its normal hectic lifestyle activity.  The peace and inner tranquillity we gain from our nature experiences can, in itself, reduce stress and even assist in any on-going healing process.

While we might be able to calm our thoughts with meditation and other religious practices, most religions throughout the world agree that nature is sacred. So, let’s try a drug-free environmental change to relieve some of our daily stress and anxiety pressures.

Not only will we feel better for the exercise, but it might also help us understand the value of maintaining a healthy environment, particularly during this period of climate change.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Over recent years the role of grandparents has changed, as we often see them being called to assist their working children. Today, many parents are required to both work, as an economic necessity. The cost of using childcare centres five days a week can seriously eat into weekly earnings. 

Grandparent’s and adoptive grandparent’s level of assistance varies. It can include babysitting, pre-school child minding, school plck-ups and after-school care, sleepovers, attending sports activities plus the constant need to fulfil hunger claims.

Most grandparents have the time to nurture, love, share, teach and play with their grandkids. While they generally enjoy their role, at times it can be tiring keeping up with the younger ones. However, there is no doubt that with regular contact grandparents can have a positive effect on the emotional development of their grandchildren and generally form a beautiful lasting and loving relationship.

Trusting relationships are formed as children learn that when they are with their grandparents more relaxed behavioural boundaries tend to exist except when it comes to manners and respect.

Interestingly enough, being with young children can have a positive effect on grandparent’s own lives. Thoughts of a quiet retirement fade as their youthfulness is once more revived and life becomes more joyful and meaningful.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Men and their sheds

The Men’s Shed organisation is an Australian concept that has become popular in all States. These shed locations, sometimes purpose built, are where older men can have the opportunity to make friends and share meaningful activities. The idea originated to improve the health and wellbeing of members.

Today many younger people’s immediate reaction is one of shock upon seeing an organisation established that doesn’t cater for both males and females together. However, before you decide to send off a protest email to your local member of parliament it might be a good idea to get an understanding of why such an organisation needs to exist.

I think most will agree men can be complicated individuals. More so, the men who have been raised and grown up during a period when the male in the family had far different expectations placed on him than what we see today.

From a young age, todays older male Aussie was given lessons on how to be a man. These started by being told not to cry. Big boys don’t cry. In those years, society had set views on manhood. You didn’t reach out to others when you felt vulnerable. You didn’t seek help. You had to be in charge and you would use force if necessary, to get your own way.

As these generations grew, considerable peer pressure ensured any intimate or open close relationships with other men was frowned on by other men. Blokes had mates they drank with or played sport with but rarely formed any long-term relationships. The results caused today’s older male to have experienced emotional periods where anger, bullying and violence came to the surface.

Spending time with your mates at a men’s shed is an important way to introduce change to men giving them the freedom to become more vocal, empathetic and compassionate. Men’s sheds are good for men’s health.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.  

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Valentines Day

Ah! Valentine’s Day. The only day in the year when long stemmed roses cost an arm and a leg. But then, if Cupid is to fly your special arrow into the heart of the one you love, to heck with the expense.

Valentine’s Day is seen as a day to celebrate romance, love and devotion. It is celebrated in honour of St. Valentine, a third-century Roman saint associated with love and togetherness.

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is often based on the expectations of the one you love.  Maybe, it isn’t necessary to spend lavishly just to impress your partner.

You might just enjoy spending time together and enjoying each other’s company. Being with someone you are in love with and being loved by that someone in return, would be a beautiful way of celebrating together.

My favourite quote for Valentine’s Day comes from Judy Garland. She once said, “For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.  It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul”.

Perhaps we could consider maintaining our love relationship by just doing little things for each other on a daily basis, without seeking to receive anything in return. This would let you both celebrate Valentine’s Day every day of the year instead of just on the 14th February.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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The transformation

The old man was prepared to accept that this was it.  This was the end.  He had been laid to rest after years of living in the beautiful garden.

He didn’t mind really.  He had enjoyed his life, even though he had been battered around by storms, survived the heat, the drought, the floods and kids climbing all around him. As he aged, he had folded his bark coat more thickly around himself, giving his aging limbs protection from the elements and attacks from marauding insects.

Although, at the time, he wept a little, he was proud of the heart the young lovers had carved in his bark.  He had offered them privacy from the onlooker’s gaze as they swapped their innermost secrets and committed themselves to each other.

Now, as he lay within the slabs cut from his generous girth, he allowed the breezes to filter between the thick slices of his body.  He whiled the days away thinking of the good times in the past. 

Months passed.  The timber cutter returned to survey the slabs he had cut and stored some time ago. Pondering for a while he then made his decision. The old man was to be born again.  His beauty was revealed once again, as his outer coat was removed and the dirt and mould of his years sanded away.  He was fashioned into a bench seat and placed in the local park, where he was again surrounded by flowers and other trees.

Now the children play around him and lovers whisper sweet nothings to each other while they sit and hold hands.  His gnarled old twisted frame has been transformed and his inner beauty on display for all to see and use.  His life was not wasted.  He is happy and useful again.

And so, it can be with us, if we deliberately seek out ways to use what gifts and skills we have to benefit our community, irrespective of how old we are.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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It was tough going in the gym as the team members used the facilities to build up their strength. They knew that working out would assist their performance and ability when they took the field to face their opposition.

Sweating and straining the body to build up muscle and improve one’s physique and endurance isn’t the only way to define the word ‘strength’.

When we apply for a job, we list our personal strengths, giving our future employer a better understanding of our qualities.  We can list strengths such as, enthusiasm, trustworthiness, patience, determination and honesty.

An engineer’s understanding of ‘strength’ is based on the capacity of an object, such as a bridge, to withstand great force or pressure.  Strength can also relate to the influence or power possessed by a person or organisation.

The degree of intensity of a person’s feeling or belief is often referred to as a ‘particular strength’. Strength can also come from the support we get from our friends when life sometimes becomes difficult.

Our strength can also come from within us when we find we are required to persevere in the face of adversity. This inner strength helps us develop a determination and allows us to overcome difficult situations.

Overall, it seems strength is the product of struggle. So, while we may not have rippling muscles, we can work on being strong in so many other ways.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Minding Leroy

While they were minding him, he lost one of his baby teeth. They did what all grandparents would do – they put the tooth in a glass, placed it above his bed and told him the fairies would come while he was asleep.

They had jumped at the chance to mind little Leroy while their son and his partner had a few days break. Leroy came complete with enough food to feed a tribe of Leroys and there was also a typed sheet detailing his feed, rest and play times.

They complied with all the written instructions and suggestions, but there was one thing different about this ‘holiday with the grandparents.’ Leroy was a five-month-old loveable chocolate labrador.

The directions stated they should take him for a daily walk, so they got the lead out and off they went to introduce him to the neighbourhood. Well, as it turned out, Leroy took them for the walk. They were detoured to every lamp post, tree and even the water meters. Here was a whole new world of smells that needed to be fully examined before moving on to the next one, usually only metres away.

Back at home they soon found that anything left low to the ground that might be edible was chewed, munched and tested for its culinary quality. Included in this category was a straw hat, a travel magazine, the door mat and the leg of a wooden chair.

Minding Leroy was such a wonderful experience for them both. They laughed at his antics, played football with him and enjoyed the fun of having a loveable larrikin around the house. It was a reminder that grandparents still have an important role to play in life, even though it might entail babysitting a pet.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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The first time he remembered hearing the word milestone used was at his thirteenth birthday celebration.  It seemed he was no longer a kid, he had become a teenager. His next milestone, his twenty-first birthday party would be well remembered. His life progressed, there were things to do, places to go and people to see.

He was pleased they didn’t put fifty candles on the birthday cake when he reached, what was again called a milestone. But, just as the batsman removes his helmet, waves it to the crowd, points his bat to his mates and then settles down to continue his innings, so life continued after fifty.

While milestones may not have meant much to him in the past, the letter he received from Centrelink, along with the attached form, made him very much aware of the significance of his sixty-fifth birthday. An appointment had been made for him to visit his local Centrelink office.

A smiling clerk called his name and he walked with him to his cubicle at the rear of the office. He found himself being congratulated. It was official, he was now an ‘Old Age Pensioner’.  It seems that at 75 he was to reach another milestone and be required to obtain a doctor’s certificate just to keep driving his car.

So, what! he thought. How about a century – now that would be a real milestone. One he felt which would definitely be worth jumping in the air and waving the bat to the crowd.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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