“Every story has a tail” says Paul half way through our conversation over lunch at the new Elk on 38 in Macksville.
It’s true, every story does have a tail (and many rabbit holes) when I catch up with Paul. We catch up for a festival of conversation over lunch a couple of times each year and in these conversations I learn about politics, community development, communication and a whole bunch of other ‘how things work’ (or don’t) in my community.
Paul cares about people. He reminds me that he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t. What is this?
Paul Sekfy is one of the last of a generation of community development workers in the Nambucca Valley. One of the workers who were around when the services that we take for granted today didn’t even exist. When the service managers were qualified in social work or maybe just life, not MBAs. It’s hard to imagine now in this cluttered service landscape what this time could have possibly been like and I’m sure there are depths of Paul’s understanding of this that I will never completely understand.
What I do understand though is a cluttered and competitive service landscape, a complex ‘user group’ that has been educated over time and now generations to rely on those services and a mentality and language of poverty that polarizes the aspirations of the community. The haves and the have nots living side by side hurling the associated contempt at one another as they wrestle with the righteousness of their individual situations. This stuff I get and it’s often the subject matter of our conversations – or, how to shift this and create a more cohesive community.
Paul sees through this bullshit (as he describes it). He sees people with all of their various trappings both positive and negative, still humans trying to survive. Although some of them really do get up his nose and he doesn’t hold back in his expression of his own contempt of them as he hurls his hands about in animated and sometimes hilarious descriptions of their idiosyncrasies.
Paul is perhaps an unlikely mentor however through our conversations I’ve learned more about the inner workings of politics than two years of breakfast with Fran Kelly.
I’ve been copping some flack lately for being seen to support one particular political party in my region. Despite Paul’s political persuasion (which certainly doesn’t lean towards the party in question) he gets that I was supporting the notion of women in leadership as opposed to the party that is spruiking it. He reminds me that ‘any publicity is good publicity’. And he also reminds me that being a person who stands by their beliefs isn’t always easy – but there is always a support network for people doing things for the right reasons.
Paul told me once (with a few more expletives) that he hates it when people think you mean something just because you said it. As a fellow explorer of thought via language I completely understood the notion of ‘talking it out’. It was this comment that enabled me to understand that not everybody is this dexterous of mind preferring to stick in the comfort zone of judging over exploring.
Paul reminds me of the rich landscape of connections I’ve made through work, and that living a life driven by social justice isn’t always easy, but it’s a good life.
#Meet My Friends is a project and personal challenge that I’ve set for myself to meet all of my 1,266 Facebook friends and spend at least half an hour connecting with each and every one of them. The commenced on 17 September 2018 and it has no time limits. The original post outlining the challenge is here