I’m in the midst of training for the Coast to Coast endurance event in February next year. And training in the most enchanted ward in the city, Burwood/Pegasus, (The East of Christchurch – no bias!) means that short to medium runs can take in Horseshoe Lake, Bottle-Lake forest or the Sand-hills. I’m able to kayak in the nearby Avon river and cycling from here to the hills is only 10 km.
I’ve taken part in the event three times before, the first as a team with my old mate Graham and the second and third as an individual. This fourth time is a head-to-head showdown with Graham, who’s gone completely mad with his training. My training time is limited due to Council and family commitments, so I’ll have to think of creative ways to beat him, like borrowing a jet-canoe off one of my former parishioners. The Waimakariri River gorge is so noisy that no-one will hear me start it up in there!
The Coast to Coast is an epic event, from one side of the South Island to the other, 243 km, consisting of various transitions of a 3k run off the beach to a 55k cycle to a 33k run on the first day, followed by a 15k cycle to a 68k kayak to a 70k cycle on the second. The more masochistic do it in one day, saying it lessens the pain and gets it over and done with!
My first Coast to Coast was a personal marker for me on a road to recovery following the loss of my mother, at the age of 59 to cancer, at the beginning of 1999. Her loss was devastating for our family. My Dad threw himself into tramping and I threw myself into multi-sport. I had more time to reflect in parish ministry then, delving into books like Stephen Covey’s ’12 keys to effective leadership.’ It was in that that I found the words to spur me on, which were, simply,’from survival to significance.’ I got so carried away with those four words, preaching about them and going on about them, that the Parish Clerk at the Christchurch North Presbyterian Church, Sally Thompson, herself a former Councillor, had a tee-shirt with the words printed on it for me – probably as a way of getting me to shut up about it all! It was a high time then, at the beginning of 2001, Anthea and I met, I achieved my goal of completing the Coast to Coast and Anthea’s energy and enthusiasm revived my ministry.
This time, 12 years later, it’s not about me. It’s about my constituents. It’s about all that they’ve been through and are continuing to go through. The loss of two suburbs, Horseshoe Lake and Bexley and large parts of Dallington, Burwood and Avondale; those private insurers, pinball wizards in their youth, where they plied their trade, pushing people around from pin to pin to pin, the EQC (Emotional Quotient Capitulation: just this last week a $70,000 pay-rise for their CEO!!!!!!!!!); the CERA legislation, which has a higher claim than the New Zealand Bill of Rights; the threatened closure and merger of 13 schools in this ward and an historical North-West bias which rears its ugly and unforgiving head towards the East in the letters to the paper and the comments in the blogs.
Those in the East have a huge mountain to climb and a very gnarly river to get down. And this journey from survival to significance won’t be done quickly. Jung’s archetypal East-West journey (here, West-East) is life’s journey. And what a journey. The ward’s nemesis that is the Avon, ekeing out a different route through the East, might well become that which gives back some equity, with the planned Avon-Otakaro development, possibly even a rowing lake, solving the hydrological problems. It’s latent environmental potential could reverse the bias. And we could find that half of Christchurch wants to make that journey from West to East as well. I actually think it needs to, for its own sake. I think the City Council needs to, for the city’s sake. For when the East is strong, the city will be. A measure of a city’s well-being is its priority for the poor. In Aranui, the median annual income is $18,000. The EQC CEO’s pay increase alone is 3.8 times that – and that was based on 70% of achieved KPI’s – the target is 90%!
In decades to come, those in the East may well look back and reflect on the difficult journey. The mountains slogged and the rivers traversed will add meaning to their lives, deep meaning. A colleague of mine from Parish Ministry used to have as his signature line on his e-mails this quote from Soren Kierkegaard – ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.’ I fell out of my kayak on the river today and felt like giving up. But I can’t. None of us can. We have to keep getting back in, no matter how many times we fall out. We have to make the journey. Life’s current doesn’t take us back, only forwards. We’ll get there, some time. We’ll move from survival to significance.