Thursday, 19 September 2013
Dear Inner Circle,
Our household had a bit of a fixation with Masterchef on the tele some time ago. Something about the show worried me but it's taken ages for the penny to drop. I think the thought of pantries that never end and the sight of three judges shoving beautiful food in their mouths and already full bellies and then making judgments is ugly. What has worried me is the complete lack of "gift" that is appropriate for food and for eating. I was raised by a man who stopped and thanked the holy fire before he ate any meal. Someone had always prepared the food and so at the end of every meal, someone had to be thanked. Even when we ate a pie at the Coles cafeteria (a rare highlight that was newsworthy for weeks), someone had to be thanked. I remember being embarrassed by Dad who thanked God out loud in public and I was bewildered while I held his hand and we went looking for someone to thank after eating the pie. I think he ended up thanking the lady at the cash register. I guess it was not just that he was religious but also because he was raised in Melbourne during the Great Depression and so for him, food and clothing always came to him with a strong sense of "gift".
Now we eat so often in restaurants and a natural exchange of gift and gratitude has been replaced by an exchange of money and expectation of value for money or satisfaction with the dining experience. I think we're losing something really important. In my boyhood, we ate together seated round a table and we talked to each other. None of us were keen on pumpkin and one day when Dad had finished saying grace, my sister's plate was piled high with pumpkin, including that from my father's plate. We laughed and sometimes battled and caught up with one another or listened to what ever it was our parents thought we needed to hear. Eating was a social event. Now, I think you can eat alone to nourish your body which is fine but a truly human act is social. It's a human act to eat together. I think to make a point of eating together would help to overcome the ugly sense of entitlement that is everywhere before us. I recently saw someone on their high horse, sending food back to the kitchen and I was embarrassed. In a restaurant, the natural relationship between the preparer of the food and the consumer of the food is broken. Consumers are often ugly individuals. Consumers live in economies. People live in families or in friendships or even in societies. Consumers are interested in value. People are interested in connection and sharing. This morning we had the most wonderful breakfast at Wayside. Our executive team and some other staff put on breakfast for our volunteers. Our ambassador David Wenham came and manned the BBQ. I don't think we are expert cooks but we certainly prepared and presented the food with love for our beautiful volunteers. We must have had about 70 volunteers for breakfast and the buzz was beautiful.
At a large funeral at Wayside yesterday I heard street people speak of a young man who had recently died. This was a wild lad in some respects but the thing that was said over and over was that whatever he had, he shared. There were several stories of people who on a cold night simply jumped under his blanket with him. No one was ever rejected. People who live in a world of stuff are concerned mostly with how they can get more stuff or more for the cheapest price. The world of stuff is not an attribute of wealth or poverty. It doesn't matter if you are looking to get your next meal or your next million. Stuff doesn't change lives but gifts do. You can only truly receive a gift when you see a giver. So many people came to the funeral yesterday because their lives had been changed by a gift.
Recently I gave a man a little job to do at Wayside and he's been faithful in serving others in the direction in which I pointed him. He's learning to make a gift of his life and energies and there have been a couple of hiccups as there always are on a journey like this one. He sent me a text me yesterday to say that he'd lost confidence in himself and that he was going to give up. This morning I saw him and he waved me over to his table. "I'd be sabotaging myself to stop now wouldn't I, Rev?" I could dance around the room with the joy that comes from seeing such a fellow learn how to live.
Thanks for being part of this inner circle,
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
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
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