Thursday, 10 July 2014
Dear Inner Circle,
A ghost confronted me this morning. I recognised a man who just a few years ago was handsome, tall and quick witted. He was in the grip of addiction then but years of scamming, begging and stealing; years of grabbing to himself has left him empty. He was paler than pale today. It looked like he’d been bashed up last night as his face was swollen and his eyes puffy. He wore what looked like pyjama pants on the outside of his jeans. Normally he’d zero in on me and hit me up for money but today he was busy looking for bumpers (cigarette butts). I believe his home is in Melbourne and we’ve not seen him for perhaps a year. How can this poor old sausage recognise an opportunity and call to life when there is a ghost within running around destroying signs of hope and demanding to be fed at every moment? I could weep.
It’s NAIDOC Week and Wayside yesterday found great joy in celebrating the presence of our first peoples. There was a flow of people through our hall from 10am to 2pm. We have so much to learn from the ancient people of this land and they have so much to give if only we could see it. None of the Aboriginal people that I know live in the past but as Charlie Perkins (who used to be very active at The Wayside Chapel) used to say, “The past lives in them”. I congratulate Mon, Will, Annelise and all the volunteers who do fabulous work with Aboriginal people.
This morning I walked past a young man who I suspect has never been young. It would be no exaggeration to say this poor old sausage has doubled his body weight in 12 months and now only walks with the aid of a stick. We’ve talked from time to time over the years, enough for me to know that his childhood was robbed by drunken, damaged people who didn’t deserve the title of 'parent' or even of 'adult'. This poor old sausage wouldn’t be 40 years old and yet in every way, he’s elderly. He was sitting in a most odd way this morning and I asked if he was in pain. He lifted his shirt to reveal a red, angry looking boil. People who sleep rough pay a dreadful price with their health.
On Monday night our Twilight Team advertised that I would be participating in a chess tournament. I don’t know anything about chess really except the basic moves but I gave some people great pleasure in giving me a whipping. One fellow had me in check mate in about six moves. It was interesting to see how people revealed themselves in the way they play games. I had fun and Wayside was buzzing with energy at the end of the day where you would normally expect exasperated, desperate and despairing people, facing a night of rough sleeping or a night of boarding house accommodation. It did my heart good to see our business manager and our community development manager also give up a few hours to engage with people. I work with the finest team of people in the world. I love them and am most grateful for them. If you ever lose faith in humanity, you need only visit Wayside because the people who are our staff members and volunteers are a gold mine of endless riches. Someone at the front door stopped Nat who acts as my PA and said, “Are you Graham’s um…um…waitress?” Nat graciously admitted to being my waitress and took a message.
Dick Smith was here on Tuesday to give half a million dollars away to charities. Dick Smith Foods aims to give business to Australian farmers as well as give its profits away to Australian charities. He asked recently for people to send in photos of themselves with one of their products and name a preferred charity. The decision to give away money was made purely on the number of photos sent in so some tiny charities received $50,000 and some large charities received $10,000. I was blown away by how many people are involved in fabulous projects that make our world a better place and as usual, blown away by the one-man tsunami of good that is Dick Smith. Massive thanks to all of you who sent in photos which resulted in a $10,000 gift to Wayside.
My course in August has only eight places left. Each Thursday in August I will bring themes from the history of philosophy and seek to land them on the ground in a most practical way. We're calling it 'Is There Life Before Death?' It will involve some teaching followed by discussion and then a communal meal, prepared by our new Social Enterprises team. You can buy your ticket here.
Things are difficult and easy, crazy and focused, heartbreaking and encouraging; its pretty much business as usual,
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Order your copy of Graham's book, Love Over Hate: Finding life by the wayside here.
Click here to listen to podcasts of past Inner Circle's, aired on ABC 702's 'Afternoons with James Valentine'
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor
Previous Inner Circles
3 July: The joy of not knowing
26 June: If not now, when? If not me, who?
12 June: Longing for riches
5 June: When you least expect it
22 May: Finding home
15 May: Flying
8 May: Tests, triumps and tissues
1 May: Skuse the French
24 April: Lifting the curtain
17 April: Collective love
10 April: Cardiac arrest
3 April: Awe struck
27 March: You're invited to something special
20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss
13 March: It's all happening at the wayside
6 March: Love makes all the difference
27 February: What goes around
20 February: The joy of being empty handed
13 February: Loving the growth spurts
6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside
23 January: Some criminals have class
16 January: Wonderful surprises
9 January: Ready, set
19 December: Thanks for an awesome year
12 December: Mission and wishin'
5 December: The ups and downs and all is well
28 November: Kissed by the community
21 November: Our cup runneth over
14 November: A revelation from wayside
7 November: When excrement happens
31 October: I am therefore I think
24 October: We are surrounded by heroes
17 October: When you least suspect
26 September: A wayside wobbly
19 September: Knowing a gift
12 September: Advancing at the retreat
5 September: A little dose of good
29 August: Fighting with a feather
22 August: The boom is just beginning
15 August: True riches
8 August: Small is beautiful
1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views
25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside
18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage
27 June: Holy ground