Thursday, 6 February 2014
Dear Inner Circle,
Mixing it with a room full of past Australians of the Year and the Governor General at Yarralumla in Canberra is not something that I do often. I bought a coat for the occasion and borrowed a tie and did my best not to look like a fish out of water. On the front lawn on our way out, I’d just said goodbye to Dick and Pip Smith when my phone went off. Answering my phone in a situation like this often gets me in trouble. The call was from a dear lady in Kings Cross who has spent her life nailed to the cross of this world. To be in her company is to know how deep wounds can be. It is also to know resilience of a rare quality. This dear old sausage speaks from her wounds but with cheek and disarming humour. I love her. She began by saying, “Graham, I’m very unhappy.” I thought the people around me would never understand the conversation that I knew was coming. “What’s up, honey?” I said. “Well, I’m being stalked by Fred.” (not his real name). “I know Fred pretty well and he just doesn’t seem to be the kind that would stalk anyone,” I said. “Well,” she replied, “he’s stalking me. He even showed up at my mother's house and was peering through the window. He’s even sending me emails that make vile and inappropriate suggestions.” I asked for the emails but they were now unavailable. I wanted to communicate that I take all such allegations seriously but that I would need some kind of indication that it was not the case that my dear old sausage was having an unwell episode. Eventually she yelled down the phone, “Look, I don’t care if Fred wants s*x but he has to learn to pay for it like everyone else!”
Last week I was in South Australia for a string of days over 40 degrees. I did an outdoor wedding in that heat. I do the shortest weddings in Australia but this one was shorter than average. It was a happy wedding that still managed a moment when time stood still as these lovely young people pledged their love to one another. When the ceremony finished and the party began, the grandfather of the groom, who is a lovely old, hard working Aussie from German stock, said in his uniquely dry and quiet way, “You went on a bit.” The wedding reception was also outdoors and the proud father of the bride moved us to tears with his expressions of love for his daughter. He was a bit of a tough old nut too and he finished by saying, “Now lets have a party we’ll never remember with some people we’ll never forget.” The party finished two days later. Most of my siblings were there and it was wonderful to catch up with them even though it confirmed my suspicion that my parents found me abandoned in a library.
Can I tell you an old story that I don’t think I’ve ever told? When my son turned 18 years, he wanted to go to a pub and have his age questioned, just so he could produce his drivers licence and prove that he was 18. I took him to a pub with a mate that was a Baptist Minister. We ate a meal and it became obvious that James needed to go into where the pokies were in order to have his age questioned. I told him he was free to go but I became concerned when he didn’t return. We decided to fish him out of this den of iniquity. We both walked into where there were poker machines but we were surprised to see that there were a number of young women serving drinks who had no tops on. My Baptist Minister mate didn’t know where to look or what to do and then one of the topless women yelled out, “Graham!” It turned out to be a woman whose wedding I had conducted in the Prospect Pub on the Great Western Highway. On the way out I told my mate that I’d not been to this particular pub before. He didn’t believe me. All my life the truth has been hard to sell.
On my way into Wayside this morning I was greeted by a man with a big smile. He shook my hand but his left arm was heavily bandaged. “Are you okay?” I asked, knowing that there has been a long history of self harm. With an even bigger smile, he beamed and assured me he was okay. I was glad to hear it but clearly distressed by this substantially bandaged left arm that didn’t appear to have much movement in it. Eventually he looked at his left arm and said, “I wasn’t okay yesterday.”
I’m so happy to be back in the saddle and so thankful for you, our inner circle.
PS. Our 50th anniversary is coming up and as part of a history project we're trying to track down old photos, particularly from the 80s. If you've got some tucked away in a box somewhere, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org ly from the 80s. If you've got some tucked away in a box somewhere, let us know by emailing email@example.com
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
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