Inner Circle


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Dear Inner Circle,

Isn’t bikie culture an interesting thing? I suspect it embodies the best and the worst of what it is to be Australian. It’s a culture with many obvious flaws but it is also one where business is conducted on the basis of someone’s word. There is a sense of belonging which is sadly missing in our wider culture. It’s sometimes among our most maligned people that we find the best to which we all should aspire.

This week we buried our much-loved old bikie, Animal. There’s no doubt that this flawed human being has inspired this city like few of it’s leading lights. In his later years, Animal devoted his life to adding joy to the world. On Mother's Day or Valentine’s Day he’d arrive at the hospice or the hospital on a bike loaded with flowers. It was better not to think about where he got the flowers from. This rather ferocious looking man would then, often with some of his bikie mates, go around and kiss anyone who was lonely and suffering and give them a flower. Christmas was an event for Animal of military precision. Nothing gave him a better kick than to give a present to someone who was expecting nothing. I’ve had several people who’ve lived on the street tell me that they would never have known what a Christmas present was except for Animal. I’ve had many tell me how Animal got them out of the Cross when they were just 12 or 13 years old and heading for trouble. He was a father to many who never had a father. He was a friend to everyone. I can’t tell you how many women have said to me this week, “Animal proposed to me”. Recently he saw a beautiful woman walking through the Cross and he stopped his bike in the middle of the road. He cared nothing about making 20 cars behind him wait while he went over to the woman to give her a kiss and a flower. He then said to her husband, who was right beside her, “That’s what you call cutting another man’s grass”. He then slowly got back on his bike and moved on.

There is a strong resonance between military culture and bikie culture. As the pallbearers raised the coffin to their shoulders, a massive figure of a man barked to the crowd to stand at attention; 1,000 people immediately did as they were ordered and the coffin was carried into our Chapel with great reverence. Think about a service in a Chapel that seats about 100 with 1,000 people attending. It was a wonderful event; a great event. Our beloved ex Governor, Professor Marie Bashir spoke with a glint in her eye about how Animal had been her friend and how he had stepped all over protocol on many occasions. People sometimes tried to bring Animal into line in her presence but he usually said, “It’s OK, we’re friends”. Imagine how that went down at grand events. When he received his OAM from the Governor, Animal looked around and said, “Wow, this looks like a court-martial”. Among the mourners at the funeral were the ex Chair of St Vincent's Hospital and the precious Sisters from St Vincent's; there were dignitaries of all kinds as well as many people who’d lived on the streets and hundreds of bikies. This simple man, who left no estate to speak of except a bike that wouldn’t pull the skin off a bowl of custard, inspired us and showed us how to live. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

As we processed with the coffin out of the Chapel to the side car hearse, bikies formed a guard of honour. A lone piper starting playing 'Amazing Grace' and then our Patron and I proceeded before the coffin. As we stood on the road and watched the procession, the ex Governor said to me, “My heart melts whenever I think of The Wayside Chapel. You do very important things here and you give a voice to those who have no voice.” Dame Marie Bashir is a slightly built person and I saw her swamped by massive bikie figures who loved her for being present at this occasion. I heard her say, “There is one thing you can do for me”. The response among the bikies was electric. They craned to listen. She said, “I’m very worried about how many of you smoke”. She went on to talk about some research she’d recently read. Not a single word came back at her for a bit. It was like kids listening to a loving mother.

I’ve only told you about one event this week and yet things are moving like someone hit the fast forward button. I recently had a break and it could be that I’ve simply forgotten about our pace of life. I’ll tell you one lesson I learned while away. When you are the grandfather and the only adult supervising the granddaughters in the pool, don’t play “Papa is a shark and he’s coming to get you”. There is a real chance that their mother might appear and ask where her children are and a long awkward silence is the only response.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

PS. If you missed the Spring edition of our On the Verge newsletter in the mail, you can view it here.     


Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor

Previous Inner Circles


2 October 2014: There's no such thing as a terrorist

21 August: Saving souls

14 August: Squeaking out

7 August: A time for turning

31 July: You're okay

24 July: Happy tears

17 July: Let's aim higher

10 July: Gristle and good

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

20 June: You cannot take what can only be given



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