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Thursday, October 18, 2012

From the Wayside Chapel by Graham Long

Dear Inner Circle,

Minutes ago I just met a woman whose rate of speech was the fastest that I've ever heard. Her words didn't blur together but rather they were sharp and clear so that listening to her was rather like facing a firing squad without the blindfold. A rather lovely face allowed me to take in the person while just occasionally tuning into the words that riddled my body full of holes. She said that she'd wanted to talk to me for weeks but that I was always too busy. I'd not noticed her before today but she certainly injected beauty into my life. What a lovely start to the day! I didn't get the chance to say anything much because she asked my questions as well as gave her answers. A couple of times she said, "I suppose you're wondering how you can help...well..." At one stage she told me off for holding Sunday service at 10am because she said, "Plenty of us working girls would love to come but we don't function at that time of the morning." Maybe next year I'll start a 5pm Sunday meeting and see how it goes.

I met another young woman while getting some food at our cafe yesterday. The volunteer served me first and I asked her if I had inadvertently pushed ahead of her. "You're more important than me," she said. "I promise you that you're wrong about that," I said. It led to a conversation at the tables where she spoke with me as if I'd known her for years. This was a confident woman with a beautiful face and I felt so honoured to have been in this conversation. She told me at one point that she'd asked God to give her a reason to live and he'd given her a daughter. "Then they took her away," she said with big eyes brimming over. This dear person had a baby concept of prayer that was not unlike sitting on Santa's knee. I think what lovers say to each other when in bed is a much better metaphor for prayer but this wasn't a religious conversation. For what it's worth, I saw more of God in this mother's breaking heart than I've found anywhere in religious gatherings for some time.

Another wonderful conversation yesterday was with a gentle and quietly spoken man. He was in sitting in the cafe and I sat with him for just a few minutes. He told me that he'd come to the realisation that he was an addict. Not just addicted to drink but addicted to anything. He told me that he thought that he could "take pills socially" but that he was coming to the realisation that no matter what substance he uses for social lubrication, he'll end up addicted. I know this fellow's name and I've seen him around, usually being helpful. He's the sort of bloke who will see a mess and tidy it up. None of what he was telling me was a surprise to me but it certainly was a revelation to him. A light was dawning and this was a moment of sober realism. I was able to tell him that I liked him, especially when he wasn't socially lubricated, and that I hoped he could experiment with mixing with people without the aid of chemicals because he is a good bloke and well worth knowing. How often is it true that people so worry about their capacity to be with others but are perfectly equipped for the task if only they didn't worry about it. At every meeting, I am entirely unselfconscious.

Our days have been quite torrid recently. Wednesday was one unending stream of ambulances and police. The day had a couple of violent episodes which usually means that alcohol was the drug of choice that day. There was a small window of about 20 minutes when there were no police or ambulances and in 19 of those 20 we had a visit from the Minister for Ageing and Disability Services. I'm sure he left thinking we were a well ordered and calm kind of place.

There is a cranky old sausage who whenever I see him is telling someone off for something. He likes to tell people off for bad manners or because they are ignorant or because they don't show respect to Wayside. To balance this, sometimes he is just incoherently cranky. He asked me yesterday if he could, "Say something personal to me." I told him that it would be perfectly in order. "You have a very attractive wife," he said. I told him that I'd been married to Robyn for 40 years and he was most impressed. He told me that he'd been married for 6 years when his wife walked out on him. Somewhere in this country there is a woman who deserves an Order of Australia for living with this man for 6 years.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

PS. We have two events coming up at Wayside as part of Mental Health Month that we'd love for you to attend. There's the launch of the Recovery in Art exhibition on Friday, 26 October at 3.30pm and Wayside Voices - an engaging evening where people will be speaking about their experiences living with mental health issues - on Tuesday, 30 October at 6pm.

Rev Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Kings Cross

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