Thursday, 13 February 2014
Dear Inner Circle,
My little granddaughter turned 7 this morning. As I kissed her goodbye last week she said, “Papa, you are going to be so surprised when you see me next week!” She was expecting to wake up today with a growth spurt appropriate for her new age. When I see her tomorrow, I’ll measure her against the school gate; against the car; against the door jam at home and I promise you, I will be astonished. I’m always astonished in her presence.
On Tuesday in our Cafe I saw a woman who probably drops into Wayside once a month. I’ve never seen her eat so I guess she comes to Wayside for company. “How are you?” I asked. “My words are ugly and my heart is ugly,” she replied. It was quite a moment as she realised that she had been pushing away that which she most needs. She’d been using ugly words against the people from whom she needs love and acceptance. It was a moment of profound emptiness and revelation. She began weeping and saying things like, “I wondered why my guardian angel had left me.” “I was going to go into the chapel and say to Jesus, 'Why are your ears closed?’” In the most unlikely context in our noisy Cafe, this dear woman realised that it was her ears that had been closed. We had some lovely tears on Tuesday.
Heading back to my office after this incident an older woman stopped me and said, “Father, can you believe I used be belted every day of my life for being left handed?” I noticed as she was talking to me that she held her left arm tightly behind her back. “My dad used to preach in the church and yet he thrashed me every day.” I put my arms around the lady and she put her right arm around me. There was no more talking although I recalled vividly how my older brother used to get belted for being dyslexic. In those days, nobody had heard of dyslexia and the treatment from teachers and from my exasperated father was to belt this boy for his unwillingness to put syllables together. At the time I didn’t understand anything except that I was witnessing cruelty. There is much from my childhood that I treasure but Australia in the 1950s was an incredibly ignorant place.
Still before I could get to my office another old girl said to me, “The world has gone mad, Father”. I knew this lady had been a heroin addict for many years but free of it for at least this past 10 years. “In the good old days,” she said, “there was just heroin, cocaine and alcohol, but now there are endless drugs that people abuse themselves with. The latest drugs are just known by numbers. Everyone at the minute is taking N 129 (I forget the actual numbers she used). These are crazy days.” I didn’t say anything much in response to this comment but it’s stayed with me because I know that the war on drugs is utterly lost and our policy of more police and stronger laws is utterly futile. There has to be a better way than anything we’ve come up with so far.
Last year in Australia we spent $936 million on Valentine's Day services and products. I quite like Valentine's Day or any other excuse for people to express their love for one another but imagine if we had a day set aside to express such love to those who need the love the most. Most charities that I know of are well run and certainly know how to make a dollar stretch a long way. I suggest tomorrow that you pick up the telephone and tell your loved one how much you love them and then remember that there are other people that also need your support. Send them a token of your love by making a donation to charity because nothing says 'I love you' like a warm shower after a night on the street or a shoulder on which to cry on the worst day of your life.
Thanks for begin 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
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