“We see diversity but we don’t see the soul, the heart of people; that would be great.”
An audio snippet from this interview with Thomas:
So perhaps you could start by giving me a sense of a typical day for you?
A typical day for me. I wake up probably about 530 in the morning, taking an awfully long time, as my wife says, to get ready. It takes a long time to make this (gesturing to his face) beautiful. Then off to work. I get there for about 730, and work a day that’s probably longer than most. It is eight hours with an hour on either side, usually. It’s a good day if I get things done. I’m the kind of person where things hold me up if I don’t have a list of things to do that I can check. They are probably getting done but, it doesn’t seem like it. I love having a list and checking off. I work with three or four people so, there is a lot of talk in between and hearing things about each other’s days and sharing things about the projects we’re working on but, then comes the end of the day and off back home and it’s time to relax, have a bit to eat, talk to my wife Ann, and watch some TV. We watch The Project or Australian Ninja Warrior, when it’s on, and then off to bed. So that’s a typical day. My problem is a typical day should probably include a good 10,000 step walk (laughing) and it hasn’t in the last little while so, hence my pudginess.
So what would you like the readers to know about your work?
My work? When I first came to Australia it took me about a year to find my first job. Back home I worked in an engineering firm. We did work for people like Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. It was facilities work, designing additions to buildings and putting in plants, mechanical works and that type of thing; piping, ducting. When I came here to Australia my first job was selling products that make concrete waterproof. I’m not a salesman and it just didn’t work for me. It took about a year and that job came to an end. I then met a man who runs a company that builds dust collectors for industry and that was more my line. It was something I’d been involved in back home and so, I’ve been working there about six years. It’s had its ups and downs but it’s a job I like. That’s my job. Engineering.
So I may have got the calculation wrong but it sounds like you might of been here about seven years?
About seven. A little bit more.
So you came from Canada. A big question here: what was life like for you there in Canada?
In Canada, it’s much the same except that coming here has pulled me away from family. My kids are all grown and spread out all over Canada and the United States. There’s four of them and no matter where I lived I might be close to one but, I always had to fly to the others. So being in Australia is not that hard. I think some of the best parts of life in Canada were being close to nature in the summer and one of the thing we always did was to go camping. It was like that each year for two weeks. As my kids got older the camping changed and the boys and I used to go canoeing and then it kind of went back to camping because it was simple.
“Somewhere in the ocean off the southern shore of Tasmania.”
Canada is a really pretty place; I find the greens in Canada are much greener than here in Australia. I suppose if I went to someplace like Ireland it would be that much greener than Canada, but yes, it’s just different like that. But also, being here people have the same kind of sense of humour so I get along okay. I can make people laugh. It’s a friendly place. I think people have the same kinds of lives here. I don’t feel like it’s that much different than back in Canada. It seems the same here.
I will ask you bit more about that in a moment. What was it that brought you here?
A couple of years before coming here my first wife and I broke up and we were divorced. And so, as a year or two went on I ended up meeting my wife now, Ann, on the Internet. It took us probably 8 or 9 to 10 months and it was just conversations and talking back and forth. We got to know each other really well and I came to Australia to meet her and then we decided to get married. And because Ann’s children were younger than mine, it seemed to make sense that I move here. My family were all in their late 20s or early 30s. I think they understood. Yeah, that’s what brought me.
So you mentioned that life in Australia has a lot in common with life in Canada. In what ways has life changed for you coming here?
I spend a lot of time on Skype or FaceTime – whichever one – talking to my family. What else has changed? I don’t know. Family life is still family life. Church is a little different. Back home I was in a Baptist Church and when I came here I said to my wife that I wanted to go to church and she said, ‘There’s one just down the street and I hear that the minister also does comedy’ – You remember those times – ‘I think you might enjoy that church’. So, I came here to St John’s and I’ve stuck it out. I say it is different because the Baptist and Anglican Churches can be very different, but it’s the same too because churches are churches. They are full of people and people are always trying to find out how to deal with each other. So, you see the same kinds of problems and the same kinds of issues. Church is church. The biggest difference is going to church in a different place. The Baptist Church can be really different in a lot of ways; the format; the style of worship. We probably had a very new kind of worship. We definitely sang hymns and knew a lot of hymns, so that I can fit in here fairly easily but, we did a lot of other new songs. We were influenced in our worship by artists because, that’s how I think worship is changing in Canada and the States. Artists are reaching out more and becoming more widely known than they might have at one time, being in the church and maybe going to a few churches around. It seems like they can now broadcast to a wider audience so much more easily and so those types of people contributed to our worship. I’m trying to remember the way it was described, because they didn’t call it worship music necessarily. I think they used the term, ‘contemporary’. So, we had a lot of contemporary worship. Probably, one thing I would think, being here in the Anglican church and being in the Baptist Church, performance was different. Here we talk a lot more about leading the congregation, whereas there you would see a lot more people ‘sharing’ songs, with the congregation listening. It’s just different and I think that’s born out of the Baptist tradition of kind of sharing your faith in a testimony, and to sing on your own and sing about what you believe is much more accepted, it doesn’t have to be corporate, it can be sharing your testimony through song.
A different sort of question. If someone saw you in the street who didn’t know you, what is something they might be surprised to know about you?
I think people you pass in the street can only see you from the outside. Usually it’s in passing, quick, that kind of thing. I think when people get to know me they understand that I care. So, passing in the street needs to be more. You want people to understand who you are and what you want to say to them, and how you want to – in a sense – minister to them. I think people look at people on the street and they don’t see all the goodness in people. And I think if someone saw more of me they would be pleasantly surprised: ‘Oh, that’s really nice’. I think that’s what I want people to think in the street but you just don’t get a chance sometimes. As diverse as we are in Australia, it would be so much better if we could be closer to each other. Passing on the street is sad, in a way. We see diversity but we don’t see the soul, the heart of people; that would be great.
Is there anything else you would like the reader to know about you?
Yes. I’m 60 years old and it’s taken me that long to become who I am. If I went back to who I was 40 years ago, I am a different person. We learn things as we get older and I think one of the things that I’ve learned, that I’m happy about, is that I’m more open to hear peoples’ stories and I don’t say right away, “Oh. That’s no good.” I’d rather listen. I’d rather people shared and understood that I cared to hear. So, I think that’s probably the best thing I’ve done as I’ve gotten older. I know that I had many prejudices, probably, as a young man and I think they came from just being a young man in the world. That’s what it is, but I’m really glad that I’ve learned to take the time to listen before passing judgement.
This interview is part of the This Is Us Australia project. If you are interested in taking part, please read our Project Description and use our Contact page or email us at thisisusaustralia at gmail.com.