Part of a family–in his 40’s

I was put onto Ian Head by a pastor. Ian had a story to share. Here’s one of the articles I wrote about him, published by the Good News Paper in the United Kingdom, in 2010. His story is one about “feeling connected to others” especially a family…

The first time Ian Head sat at a dinner table was with his fiancée’s family. He was 40.

“I couldn’t handle it,” Ian says.

An orphan, Ian grew up in children’s homes, so he had no experience of family life.

“I felt I was not supposed to be there. They were talking about brothers and sisters and cousins – things which were foreign to me.”

Shifted between five Barnardos homes in England – Portsmouth, Kingston, Parkstone, Sussex and Kent – during the 1940s, Ian was given a new number each time he moved.

“Everybody knew their own place in the pecking order”, he recalls. Older boys preyed on younger boys. It was survival. You couldn’t be sat on. Some did and we treated them like wimps. You grew up tough and you had to stand up for yourself.”

In the homes, Ian was resolved to his lot in life.

“You’ll never know where your mother came from. I had never been connected to anybody”, he says. “We were the lowlifes, we would never get above our station. You felt you were good for nothing.”

The boys were “totally alienated from the outside world”, which made the transition out of the home, when he was old enough, difficult.

“In those days, we were not taught how to deal with emotional and psychological things. We were so cocooned. Suddenly, it was a totally different environment in the real world. I lost my security. You were on your own. You went from life being really strict to it being loose. I didn’t have to keep looking over my shoulder. It was up to me. I didn’t have the know-how to look after myself and I was easily led.”

Faced with job application questions that asked for parents’ names, next of kin or hereditary diseases, he froze because he couldn’t answer them. He spent the 1950s floundering. He had never been taught how to handle money, never been in a shop, spoke to a girl or used a telephone. He could never hold down a job.

In 1956, Barnardos sent him to New Zealand. In Wellington, he met Mary, a Christian, while at the lowest ebb in his life. Mary found Ian in a drunken stupour and suicidal. But later they married and had two children and five grandchildren.

Ian Head, in 2010, outside his home

But Ian’s emotional insecurities didn’t begin to be resolved until he became a Christian himself in 1987. God helped him give up smoking and drinking, and he eventually overcame his identity issues and emotional and psychological problems.

He says praying, studying the Bible, worshipping God and fellowship with like-minded Christians has made all the difference.

In 2002, at age 70, Ian is cheerful. For the first time, he feels “connected” to people. “I can openly feel that people do like me. I don’t have to put on an act or walk around in a uniform to be wanted.

“I accept that people accept me for who I am. I’m free to give now, and I can receive. I am set free. I have a peace in my heart. I’m not naval-gazing anymore. I’m more interested in how other people are doing than how I’m doing because I’ve got the Lord. The Lord is using me in helping other people.”

Ian is involved with Meals on Wheels, the Open Home Foundation (a Christian child and family support service in New Zealand) and mentoring prisoners.

And the icing on the cake? Ian has finally discovered his family. Through his daughter’s research, Ian has found that he has four brothers and three sisters, back in England!

Ian and his wife flew over for a four-week reunion. The meetings were healing. Ian now feels special, connected, worthy and loved. 

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