Adam James.

What I learnt these holidays…

What I learnt these holidays…

All packed and ready to go

I began to realise something while wading in the middle of the lake. Looking around to see that it was at least an hours swim in any direction.  I was pretty confident I wouldn’t drown but the sun was already kissing the horizon and it was cold.  I must admit I started to panic.  I tried to get my kayak seaworthy again.  Old busted seals had allowed water in from the onslaught of unusually large waves driven by the cold winter wind.  A trip I’ve done half a dozen times with no incident but this time it was different.  I scooped out the water but with each wave the water returned twice as fast as I could replace it.  I gave up.  I accepted the situation.  I laid on my back and prayed.  Apart from my circumstance, as I looked around, it was astoundingly beautiful.  I was there to escape.  I was reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau again.  Inspired by his words, “…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”  I realised there on the lake that this was exactly what I had come to experience… just wetter and colder than what I would’ve preferred.  I made my peace with God.  I’ve been in many life and death situations and I’ve learnt that they go better when you bring peace into the thick of it.

“…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…” -Henry David Thoreau
Now my mind was clear there were two options… let the kayak go and get to the shore quickly-with nothing.  Or tow the kayak with about 100 litres of water and drenched supplies.  To add to the dilemma I could see a storm cloud blowing in from the south.  I grabbed the handle and swam backstroke towards where the sun was setting on the shore in the distance.  The shore was a swamp.  There was very little sunlight left.  I found 2 large paperbark trees whose roots rose above the swamp just enough to wedge my tent squashed between them.  I set the tent up and threw in my soaked supplies and got my gas lamp lit.  Merely seconds later it started to pour.  I looked around.  No water was getting in and the heat from gas lamp made the tent nice and toasty.  I had sealed my phone up but the water still got to it.  It was fried.  I was all alone in this swamp and not another soul in the world knew where I was and the feeling was wholly redemptive.
I went there to rediscover in the furtherest corners of my soul, who I was, and what I was here on earth to be.  I wanted to know if there was any part of me that was timidly accepting less than what this outrageous gift of life deserves.  And, if so, give it a death sentence and crucify it there and then.
Not once did I think I’d die on the lake.  I’ve had the previous privilege of experiencing many unfortunate near death situations.  This was not one of them.  But nonetheless being cold & alone in a lake confronts and interrogates your spirit with those questions.
Currently I make great coffee and run a charity.  My pride isn’t in that.  My pride is in who I am.  My “being”.  I am a man who was adopted by God.  And I’m His favourite son.  I’m proud of that.  Compared to this I don’t care about what I “do”.
Cup Of Truth

I went on a quest to discover the world of coffee in the old town of Melbourne.  I found so much more.  It’s no secret that Melbourne is home to some of the world’s finest coffee but it has also birthed some of the greatest social enterprises on the planet.  Great coffee is one thing but using coffee to make great changes is truly brilliant.  Structuring an enterprise that yields both financial sustainability and lasting social outcomes is like acrobatics for business.  It ain’t easy.  I met with many social entrepreneurs and asked them how they do what they do.  It was overwhelmingly satisfying.

Streat. One of the greatest social enterprises in Australia.
Streat. One of the greatest social enterprises in Australia.
Degraves Lane.

The coffee scene in Melbourne is simply electric.  My first thought was it’s so cold that coffee was not a matter of taste but a means of survival.  Simply a hot water bottle for Melbournian hands.  And perhaps the taste had simply evolved to make the hand warmers more palatable and in turn more frequently purchasable.  I still think the cold contributes to the quantity of coffee sold.  Even my cafe Cup From Above sells twice as much coffee in winter as it does in summer.  But something else is happening in Melbourne…

There are cafes everywhere.  Every hole in every wall has been puttied up with

Degraves Lane.

a bearded man behind a steam wand dishing out decadent coffee.  The rest of the ancient cracked wall has been plastered with band posters and graffiti.  It was a visual smorgasboard… but it was more than that…  It was delicious both to the eyes and the ears and the heart.  Even the worst coffee & food tasted to my tongue better than most I’d had in Brisbane.  I love my city.  I mean Brisbane is great.  It’s young and vibrant and we can hold our own on the world stage when it comes to coffee.  Comparing isn’t kind.  But my eyes & my heart were searching for gems that could be replicated and made our own in my corner of Brisbane.

Derek from Now & Not Yet.
Derek from Now & Not Yet.

What I found is that people really deeply lived there.  Their city was theirs.  No rich man had paid an artist to decorate his walls.  The people coloured it that way because they love it.  They love coffee…so their barista hand crafts them their coffee and all the effort is appreciated.  It occurred to me that they weren’t going to the city merely to work.  They were living their lives amongst it and so they made it beautiful.  On every level.  Walls didn’t exist to make offices for humans to get their work done in.  They were canvasses of art that kept coffee drinkers from the cold between brews.  I’m sure they all shuffled papers one way or another, or cleaned or sold things.  But they did that merely to live around their friends, art, music, great food & coffee.

Part of my extended family (blood)

I went and stayed with all of my extended family in Melbourne.  These are the greatest people I know on earth.  They all live and love well.  The cornerstone of every community should ideally be a loving & generous family.  In this dark & treacherous world it is simply a lottery ticket to belong to a great family.  I’m proud to hold one of those tickets.

As a christian I foremost believe anyone who is a follower of Jesus is my family-both the good & bad folk of the faith.  I’m also passionate about building community.  I consider most of the volunteers at my charity as family too those of the faith and not.  I would do anything for my team… they’re certainly more than friends.  Maybe I’m just a compulsive adopter… I often find myself asking… in this shattered & heartless world who should and can I trust?
I’ve recently learnt yet again that most people are brutally driven to satisfy only themselves.  To prove their significance in something so thin and shallow as their ego.  Most people don’t believe they’re loved and are terrified that they will be left without.  Without things or love or family… I guess left without being loved.  And so they sabotage their love, and their significance, by doing the very thing that destroys what they crave.  They’re left with nothing but having won a meaningless battle when really, deep down, they, we, just want to love & be loved.  The world is also full of people who will have no issues making you suffer simply because they’re suffering inside.  I’m becoming grateful for these people because their actions have built character in me-and now I have this outrageous hope even for the worst of people.  I’m learning that it’s not good for them or me to be too close.  But I’m gonna love ‘em anyway.  Because there’s always hope.
The other side of the coin is family are always gonna hurt you.  Whether it’s blood or adopted family: it’s gonna happen.  Bob Marley once said “the truth is everybody is gonna hurt you, you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for”.  I reckon family are all those worth suffering for.  Or maybe it’s meant to be suffering with?  Sometimes it’s talking through the night about the minutiae of life and suffering from sleeplessness.  Sometimes it’s forgiving and forgetting wrongs in the desperate hope that they won’t be done again.  Sometimes it’s making another phone call asking to ‘catch up’ that probably won’t be answered but you do it anyway.  Just ’cause love hopes.
“the truth is everybody is gonna hurt you, you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for”


That’s what I learnt these holidays.  A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey.  You know who you are.  🙂

Picture of A.B.James


I'm a musician, a podcaster, a blogger & I work in marketing. I live in Australia and have two dogs named Ned & Sasha.


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