When I first spoke to ‘jack of all trades’, John Douglas, I stupidly mistook his location as Cape York, Queensland. I was heavily corrected, that actually, he lives with his wife Jin, in Edithburgh, part of the York Peninsula in South Australia. He told me, ‘if we are going to talk you need to get things right.’ I couldn't agree more, so I started listening with two ears and my wild imagination was kept at bay for a minute.
John is a natural storyteller, a man with a story to tell and so many more to write. He will be presenting a paper in Prague to work out if coral can be saved by the protozoa he is researching. I asked if his wife will be in tow, he said with all honesty, “I can't possibly leave a beautiful blond with a mind like Jin’s alone in Edithburgh. I’m the lucky one to be traveling with her”. I was getting a vibe that his heart was as much in microbiology and new life forms as feminist politics, probably an overhang from his dedicated upbringing and learnings from his Mother.
He traveled around the countryside as his wife's assistant for a rural project to give mothers a break from the demands of homeschooling their children, which inevitably happens on rural farms. Mum's are generally responsible for their children's education as well as the day to day domestic overload of raising a family. While Jin teaches, John assists farmers with fencing and cattle grazing, as a farm hand. The relief for the recipient families is unimaginable. Australian rural communities live in complete isolation, any help with heartfelt motivation would be welcome. John and Jin are physical philanthropists, in that they give their time to noble community and environmental causes.
John told me mid-interview that this a fantastic opportunity to bang on about himself, a hobby of his he rarely gets to enjoy but, I just saw his personality unfold that was so invested in the well-being of others. I could have listened for hours, every sentence was like a zen master quote from a Buddhist calendar. He gave me a clear message, embedded with experiential wisdom of a life lived dutifully with awareness and intent.
Later that day I showed my partner all the love. I was impressed that a couple that had been together for decades still shared and vocalised their admiration. The attention that John showered his wife, the accolades he gave her for her work in rural communities, the pleasure in his voice when he spoke her name. He was teaching me about companionship, togetherness and the idea that we can share a life and not fall into complacency, neediness, frustration or bitterness. We don’t need to keep score, with our friends, families or our partners, we can just do our thing, support each other and share our experiences, growth will surely follow, as long as we are listening with two ears.
- John Douglas' story as told to Nat Power
Read more about John here
We believe in the power of stories to illuminate and educate. Through sharing our experiences of accomplishment, getting older and caring for those around us, we can help each other navigate the challenges we will all face at some stage in our lives.
If you would like to share your story, email us. We have a team of talented writers who would love to talk to you and help bring your story to life