I am lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of Men's Sheds in Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle area over the past few years. Each shed is a little different, not just in the physical structure but the people inside them and like those people, each shed is unique. There is however one thing they all have in common, the opportunity for the members, known as ‘Shedders’, to share.
Not everyone who walks through the door of a men’s shed understands woodworking or metalwork but with a warm welcome and safety induction new shed members are just a left handed screwdriver away from building a brand new letterbox. Men like to share skills and knowledge with others who are willing to learn and from what I’ve seen, the Men’s Shed is a great environment to learn. Professional in approach but relaxed and friendly is how I would describe the sheds I have visited. Acquiring some basic knowledge or a new skill set means that not only are you keeping your brain active, but you are also creating or fixing something, helping the person or people it’s for and providing yourself with a sense of accomplishment.
For a bloke who is retired, unable to work or in a caring role there can be a gap or a sense of something missing. Men’s Shed certainly helps to fill some of that gap.
The Shed provides an environment where men can have conversations that they might not have the opportunity to have anywhere else. This is where the ‘Shoulder to Shoulder' philosophy works well for men. Whether it is because there is no one around to listen or it may be uncomfortable talking with someone close, sharing a few words about whatever may be causing stress and anxiety in your life can make a huge difference. The problems don’t always need to be solved or fixed, just getting something off your chest can make you feel better.
Despite the myths, men are often willing to share their concerns and show emotions but it takes the right environment for this to happen and Men’s Shed is a great example of that.
There are a large number of senior men who are caring for their partner, child or grandchild and the best advice I could offer is, if you haven’t already, set aside some time for yourself to visit your local shed or sheds and spend a little time there getting to know some of the other men. For men reading this who are already involved in a Shed, do you know of any potential shedders who are caring for someone that you could invite along, show them around the Shed and encourage them to come back?
Before finishing up it is important to note one more thing that each of the sheds share in common and that is a well catered toolbox meeting (morning tea). I couldn’t help but crack a smile watching men arrive at the shed with cake tins proudly declaring their baking ability as it ignites a friendly yet competitive debate about how another shedders scones devoured at last week’s meeting would be hard to top. This is just one example of how being in and around a Men’s Shed creates a playful but meaningful experience for men. Sharing conversations and knowledge over a cup of tea or coffee with some scones and cake is making a big difference in the lives of many Australian men and the communities around them.
Congratulations to the Australian Men’s Shed Association on your 10 year Anniversary and to all the Shedders around the country well done to each of you for being part of something special.
Find a Men’s Shed near you by visiting http://mensshed.org/find-a-shed/