Thursday, January 31, 2013
From the Wayside Chapel by Graham Long
Dear Inner Circle,
One of Sydney's best scammers stepped into my path yesterday. She hugged me and put $1.50 into my hand. She gave a little speech about how this money was to repay me for all the times I'd helped her over the years. She walked away, leaving me staring at the $1.50. This may not sound like a funny moment but I would shudder to think of the number of times I'd either bought her a coffee or a drink or 'lent' her a bus fare or a train fare. People always tell me that they'll be paying me back the following day but it’s a rare day when that happens. As this dear little sausage walked away I muttered something like, "I guess that makes us square then".
An old man with a hunched back walked into our Sunday service this week just as it was finishing. Afterwards the old man made his way up to talk to me and I suddenly recognised him as a man who was young just a couple of years ago. A man who looked maybe 40 years old just a while ago, today looks like a 70 year old. The last time I met this fellow he was well enough to cause our staff some grief yet I was quite happy to see him again. He could barely walk. In order to look me in the face he had to bend at the knees as the bend in his back had no flexibility. He told me that he'd broken his back in a suicide attempt which was motivated by a kind of soul weariness from years of addiction. He was now a cancer patient at St Vincent’s hospital and they had given him leave to come and see me. He told me that he only had weeks left and he wanted to know if I would do his funeral. When I told him I'd be honoured to do his funeral, there was a visible sense of relief that came over his tired but lovely face. "But I'm a dreadful heathen," he said. "Mate" I said, "there is no exclusive club. If you're not a brother, then I've never seen one."
There was another loveable fellow around this morning who I've known for a few years. An addiction to morphine has robbed this poor fellow of life. He always wears too many clothes for the weather and it means he is always sweating profusely. The poor man is a one of Sydney's most prolific scammers and he's worn out his welcome with most agencies and Kings Cross regulars. I love to watch the way people walk and this fellow has the most interesting walk I've ever seen. It's hard to describe but it's a bit like the man's every step is being kept secret from his body until the last moment. I guess he's always on the look out to see who he might bite or where he might find some money. I see him walking in a straight line but at each step he could easily move 90 degrees or even 180 degrees from his path and it couldn't be predicted. I put my hands in my pockets in an unkind gesture that I think meant to signal that I had no money so there would be no point in asking. As it turned out, he only came to tell me that his mother was critically ill. As he was talking to me, another lady who I know well, walked up from behind me and simply laid her head on my shoulder while this conversation took place. I know what her heartache is about and this conversation without words was heavy with meaning. I felt honoured to have given my shoulder today.
I pay tribute to some extraordinary people today. Belle, Hayssam, Bride, Dominic, Andrea, Alex, Hannah, Lawrence, Richard, Peter, Caroline, Tara, Caroline, Vera, Sandy, Bethany, Clare, Nicola, Meleanna, Michael and Laura are all off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on Monday. When I first agreed to this expedition, we hoped that the climbers might raise perhaps $50,000 for Wayside. To this moment these beautiful folk have raised $158,881. Thank you dear people for the months of fundraising. Thank you dear people for electing to take a difficult road in order to make the world a better place. Your efforts will feed hungry people, find shelter for homeless people, teach life skills to those who are disadvantaged and give hope to some who have long since lost hope. Not many who receive the help will understand the cost of love that made the help possible but I'm in awe of you and I salute you as does all 8,000 members of our inner circle.
If there is an inner adventurer in you that is brave enough to lead the way to a better world, the Wayside is organising a fundraising trek on the Kokoda Track in October this year. You can enquire about this here.
Thanks for being part of this inner circle,
Rev Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
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