Way back in early 2016, I sat back in a park taking off my shin pads and football boots, after two hours of kicking a football around with 30 other guys in 35 degree heat.
Although physically exhausted and wondering how sore my back would inevitably be for the next week, mentally, amongst the chat and banter, I felt something good. And I could sense the other guys’ struggling to get up off the grass could feel something too (not just a pulled hamstring).
Most of the men did not know each other. We had only put an advert on Gumtree and Meetup.com a few weeks earlier. But undeniably there was a feeling of connection.
When these "kickarounds" developed into a fully-fledged football club on one branch, MRP FC, the other grew into the Mr. Perfect Meetup BBQs.
Since my first visit to Australia in 2007, I had buried away memories of my travels, with some of the warmest, friendliest and relaxing experiences occurring around a BBQ. And this was poignant, as the time period was one of most darkest, full of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations, despite my “escape” to Australia. Any sense of relief was welcome.
Be it a visit to a friend of a friend of a friend on the Sunshine Coast, where their dad fired up his BBQ for us and gave us a place to stay, to the second time I met my now wife at a friend of a friend’s BBQ party. From the intimate occasion, to the more vibrant, the BBQ was a hub, a vehicle of sorts.
But these were just tasters, the true hallelujah moment coming when I realised most public parks in Australia had public BBQ facilities. Mind-blown does not even cover it.
Fast-forward a few years and reflecting on the stories from our Mr. Perfect Meetup BBQs, as well as my own feelings when running that first ever one in central Sydney, there was a psychological reaction.
When people have asked me why do we hold the Meetup BBQs in public parks, I explain open, green spaces are healing. And practically, it is much easier to politely escape when feeling uncomfortable, or to do a few laps of the park and view from a distance to build up some confidence.
When people have asked me why BBQs specifically, I explain that it provides a slight, helpful distraction. For example, while I used to cook the food, I could tell part of my story casually, and this set people at ease. Or, it gives attendees the opportunity to offer to help and cook too, which no doubt makes them feel more comfortable and useful.
“Barbeques, it turns out, are good for your mental health - particularly when they take place in green spaces. Previous posts have covered ways the natural environment helps restock mental energy after it has been depleted by activities such as knowledge work”.
From the basic sausage, bun and sauce, to the more ambitious infused, marinated, slow-cooked, the food experience at Mr. Perfect Meetup BBQs can differ. But ultimately, the BBQ is just the vehicle for connection, a recipe made for good mental health.
To join the Mr. Perfect Facebook Community click here.
To find a Mr. Perfect Meetup BBQ near you click here.