Graham is a personal friend of our family.
This is this weeks weekly newsletter from the wayside chapel.
Dear Inner Circle,
First thing this morning a man stopped me with an infectious smile. He pointed to his face in a way that made it obvious that he was growing a beard. He put his arm around me and walked me to the front window of Wayside so that we could both see our reflection. He proudly proclaimed, “Like father, like son”. The significance of this moment was not in the beard but in the proclamation of father and son. I suspect no higher honour could be given to me.
Yesterday while walking through the cafe, I saw a woman and in passing asked, “How are you going?” Her reply was, “My life is like a rigged game of snakes and ladders.” I paused to look into her face. If ever there was a high milage face, it's this one and yet there is a beautiful woman to behold. I wanted to say, “I’m with you” or “I’m glad you’re here” or something that showed I could see her. I couldn’t think of anything to say except, “If I had a magic wand, I’d give it to you”. She smiled for the first time and said, “If you had a magic wand, I would have stolen it by now.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek. Beautiful!
Last night I had cause to be in Woolloomooloo quite late. As I was leaving, I saw the distinct walk of an old guy that I love. He had a stroke some time ago and I’d recognise his walk anywhere. I thought that he had accommodation and it worried me to think that such an unwell and frail man might be living back out on the street and still walking around at this time of night. He’s an old-fashioned skid row type of alcoholic but there is much to love about him. When I saw him this morning in the cafe I told him that I’d seen him last night and was quite worried that he should be out on the street so late. His yellow-stained but soft hands both grabbed mine and he said, “Thank you for worrying about me because I don’t have the time to worry about me.” This dear old man is much-loved by everyone at Wayside. A week ago he sat on the side of a silly conversation I was having with some young people who were likening their lives to cakes. They asked me, “If you were a cake, what kind of cake would you be?” My lovely skid row friend piped into the conversation saying, “Unfortunately someone dipped my cake into alcohol.” He knew he’d cracked a funny joke; his timing was perfect and his face and mine met at that moment. The mostly dirty, blood-coloured face had lit up in a burst of hilarity. A perfect toothless smile broke into a belly laugh. None of us really knew what to say next and I was kind of relieved for the natural end. As he shuffled away I knew I was mightily privileged to have shared a laugh with a lovely man.
A young, articulate, successful man sat in my office this week and I have his permission to tell this story. Some years ago he survived the most dramatic attempt at suicide. Today he’s in a long-term relationship; he has beautiful children and more wealth than most of us would understand. In the early part of our conversation he began to tell me that he has certain needs that are not being met. I stopped him. If unmet needs is where the conversation begins, there is no happy way to finish the conversation. Nothing human and life-giving comes from the project of getting your needs met. All the endings are unhappy. Sometimes a kind of mutual need-meeting arrangement looks human in the short term but it’s a temporary illusion. I always make it clear to people that I don’t do counselling. I’d rather relate to people as Graham. There are plenty of good counsellors around. I told him that the longer he sooks about his needs, the more comprehensive they will become. He’ll only find life by losing it. It’s not his attitude that needs to change but the direction of his feet. He’s made an appointment to see me next week so I’m comforted to know he’s curious and not offended.
You may think I’m something of a cracked record but we’re right out of socks, undies and blankets again. So many times you have responded with extraordinary generosity to give our city’s most vulnerable the dignity that comes with a clean pair of undies or socks. If you could jump in again we’d be most grateful. Perhaps you could run an undie drive in the office or a sock or blanket drive in a club or church. I give you our deepest thanks on behalf of the knickerless.
Thank you for being part of our wonderful inner circle,
Rev Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
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