Andrew Hillier

By Devonport Chaplaincy CEO, Andrew Hillier.

Margin is said to be the space between our load and our limits. Living our lives in such a way that we have space to breathe, time to be present, and the ability to be responsive to the one in front of us, at just the right time. It is time for us to give attention to the margins in our lives if we’re ever going to make a difference in a “stressed out” world. And, it has to begin with me.

To this end I seek to lead our team in a different way. I encourage a culture where margin is a part of our everyday function. This means people are first and foremost— outcomes, results and numbers are secondary. Live a life with Margin, be present and available to those who need our support, the results and outcomes will be the overflow.

Hearing the whispers of hurt

What does this look like in reality? For our chaplains and mentors we work with the 80/20 principle: 80% unstructured, 20% structured. As a guide this means 80% of our time is being available for when that crisis hits, creating margin in the day, ready to hear the whispers of hurt and hopelessness as we go about providing support and care for struggling youth and families across our community. Ensuring we are not “so busy” that we completely miss those important moments and encounters with the people placed directly in front of us. In this, we never neglect the necessary structure, but we make certain that it never gets in the way of relationship and connection.

In the complex and challenging times that many find themselves in right now, with loneliness, anxiety and poor mental health being at epidemic levels, we seek to make certain our chaplains and mentors can be available, focused and resourced to get on with the job.

Your financial support enables this to happen. Be that, stepping up and making yourself available for 80-minutes a week as a mentor may be the best use of your available margin.

As I've reflected on margin and what matters most, I was reminded of a review of our community mentoring program undertaken by the Department of Education. In the establishment process some specific outcomes were identified. They included evident improvement in a student's literacy and numeracy, attendance, behaviour etc. Whilst the Education Department was very keen on the value of “relationship” and the input these people would have through one-to-one mentoring, the focus initially was on the measurable outcomes.

'I've just spent time with him'

However, over time it became evident that relationship was key. There are many testimonies of this being the case. One story goes like this: A mentor was asked by a senior school staff member: “What numeracy activities have you been doing with your student because his grades in maths and other subjects have improved significantly”. To which the mentor answered, “Nothing, I’ve just spent time with him.”

This has become a common experience in the mentoring of young people in our schools, they are just simply looking for someone who can “be present” in their life, someone willing to invest some time and interest. As a result this is having a huge impact on many other areas of their life including their academic achievements. Many mentors do spend time with their mentorees helping them with their literacy, numeracy or other academic needs, but ultimately it’s about relationship!