Thursday, 20 June 2013
Dear Inner Circle,
It's not the warmest of days and I just saw a woman wearing a blanket and nothing else. I've not seen her before but I introduced myself and told her that if she walks to Wayside we'd find her some clothes to wear. "They won't help me there," she said. "Yes they will," I promised. She toddled off toward Wayside, adjusting her blanket as she walked. Modesty didn't seem to be her first priority.
At the front door today a young woman stopped me. I've seen this face before but it literally ages by the week. Some months ago I would have said this was a teenager and today I could believe this young woman was 30 years old. She might be 20. I observed that although we'd not talked that I'd seen her around and thought she looked like her journey had been tough. "I can survive anything," she said. "It's like they tell you about bush fires. You just put your head down, stay still without panicking and wait for the danger to pass." I thought it wasn't bad advice in some ways except that while her words were telling me how tough she was, her face was telling me that she was a frightened little girl. She suddenly changed tone and said, "Can you pray for me?" I usually avoid situations like this because I get uncomfortable that people think that prayer is about some form of magic instead of some form of presence. Her voice almost disappeared as she mouthed the words, "I'm so lost. My dad died recently and people say he was a monster. He was a monster to me but he's all I had". Her pretty eyes filled with water and she mouthed some more words that I couldn't lip read. We were on the seat out the front so I put one arm around her and held her hand with the other and I prayed Psalm 130. "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord; Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you O Lord kept a record of sins who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness and so we are in awe." Still with no voice this dear young woman whispered, "thank you".
A few weeks ago a kind angel donated some really good quality guitars and since then I've been amazed by how many people who visit here can play quite competently. Having someone play and sing so often really helps to calm the atmosphere. I'm so grateful for this gift. Another angel paid for quite a few of our staff to go and hear the Dalai Lama last week and so the place is buzzing as so many of our people jumped at the opportunity. What a generous gift to have been made to Wayside. I've decided that I'm going to the next staff meeting wearing our bed sheets and I reckon I'll have everyone's full attention.
Yesterday I had a session with a bully. He raises his voice and steps up intimidatingly close and makes eye contact with sustained violence implied. Mostly he gets what he wants and the more he gets it, the needier he becomes. I've seen him take the last dollar off people who are too weak to stand up to him and the longer I've known him the less of him there is. He is alone in the world and he's been snatching for so long that he's emptied himself to a hollow shell. If only he knew that you cannot take what can only be given.
Today I have an appointment with a man who hasn't had a drink in five weeks after having spent 20 years in a drunken fog. There is a tough road ahead but there is a look of wonder and surprise on his face because he is alive and awake and okay. He's enjoying being able to walk in a straight line. He walked in last week when the Honeybees were singing and he literally stopped like he was in the presence of angels and said to me, "I feel like all of this is just for me." I looked into this lovely old lined and awestruck face and said, "I think it is".
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