Thursday, June 26, 2014
From The Wayside Chapel by Graham Long
Please note Graham is a family friend and a relative through marriage.
Dear Inner Circle,
All was pretty quiet in the nursing home on my last visit with my Mum. She was sleeping in the lounge area and I woke her up with a kiss. We held hands and she told me how blessed she was to be receiving the best of care. She pointed out various staff members and told me how much she loved them. At one stage I told her that I was thinking about writing another book. She looked me in the eye and gave me her best advice. She told me to centre myself in God rather than myself and “something of the power of prayer and the power of right living will come through your words.” She was so warm and generous with me and it took me ages to realise that she didn’t know who I was. She told my sister later that she’d been visited by the most lovely man.
Every time I went downstairs yesterday I saw Kate, one of our community workers, sitting alongside someone on our front deck. Sometimes it looked like she was sorting out minor matters for people and sometimes it looked like she was being alongside someone in their darkest moment. It was Wayside at its best and Kate is a gem. After dark I went downstairs and observed our Twilight Team in action. John (our very own saint and another of our community workers) was dressed in a Chinese style hat that had a pony tail attached and he was calling bingo numbers. This probably sounds unremarkable but the early hours of dark are often the toughest for people who have not been able to find a bed for the night. For those who have had a rough day and have nowhere to go, twilight is more than just the time when the light of day fades. John’s work was not about “legs 11” or “two fat ladies 88”, it was a stunning, breathtaking, hopeful act of love and engagement. The cafe was busy and Mitzi, who leads the Twilight Team, was overseeing everything in her unique, gentle way. As I walked away, I was never more proud to be a part of such a team. A man and a woman joined me as I walked up the street. They are clearly in love and many times in the day I had seen them in a deep embrace. Part of me wanted to say, “Get a room” but under the circumstances, such an expression could not have been more cruel. They carried with them some warm clothes that we’d found and several blankets. I guess they were headed to a nearby park for the night. As I climbed into my own warm bed last night, I couldn’t help but think of these two and hope that their love made the cold bearable.
The other day I read that in London people are erecting “homeless spikes”. Just like pigeons are kept off window sills, homeless people are being kept off public places by spikes. The older I get the more I think I’m an alien in this world. I understand and support the notion that we as families and as a society should not live beyond our means but this can be done without making victims of the poor. We can be humane and careful if we choose to do so. Pain can be shared without looking for someone to blame. For the foreseeable future I can't see how Australia could have the cheek to talk to any other country about human rights. We are in a moment where good people must stand up and speak up. We need to assert again the dignity of the human person and insist our leaders turn a “fair go” from an empty cliche to real, living policies. I urge every member of the inner circle not just to be upset about the current trends but to act. Do something lovely for someone. Let your words be more than noise in the air. Donate to ease the burden of someone who is sleeping rough or who has hit hard times. Let your vote of confidence in humanity move from your head to your heart and to your wallet. For those who are long term members of this inner circle, you’ll know I only ask for money twice a year; at Christmas and at the end of financial year, so if you’re in a position to do so, please give to our winter appeal here before June 30.
We will gather tomorrow morning at Wayside to lay to rest a woman whose personality animated this place for more than 30 years. I’ll miss her laugh and sense of fun. Our friend died at age 47 and every one of those years was a battle. This lady has proved that the highest and most noble is revealed in difficult circumstances rather than when the way is easy. I predict a large funeral and a mighty outpouring of love for a woman whose presence added grace to our days.
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,
PS. If you're around next Monday, I'd love to see you at a special 'Wayside Voices' event we're having in our Community Hall from 6pm to 8pm. People from our community will be sharing their own personal experiences of 'love over hate' and what it means to them. There is nothing more powerful than stories about love triumphing over hate. More details here.
Rev Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
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