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Thursday, August 4, 2016

From the Wayside Chapel by Graham Long

Dear Inner Circle,
Sometimes the impossible confronts my eyes, defying me to explain it or daring me to be arrogant enough to explain it away. It’s not easy to stand before the impossible, baffled and in awe. A man came into my office just now to offer me a slice of apple cake. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like a moment that could arrest the progress of time, but it was. The man was wearing a long apron and a white beret. This fellow is our baker. He’s learning his craft with the help of some of our fabulous staff and he’s thriving as he discovers himself doing well. I said, “I can’t begin to tell you how inspired I am to receive this cake.” “Well,” he said, “You say often on Sunday that, ‘God says you’re ok’ and no one has ever told me that I’m ok.” This fellow spent many years living on the street and perhaps in the order of twenty years fighting an addiction to heroin. We’ve shared the ups and downs of what is a daily struggle and broken our hearts as his story is revealed. It’s a story of an intelligent man who never had much but lost everyone and everything in life. Too humble to fight for a place in the world and too sensitive to blame his losses on others, he lived the life of a hermit, his only shelter and only comfort to be found in drugs. What I just saw was a man engaged; engaged with this community, engaged with life and moving on a path to health. Awesome, bewildering, impossible but real.
Here is an offer you’ll get from nowhere but Wayside! A lovely bloke involved in our program for people living with long-term mental health issues, is putting on his own exhibition. Pee Wee is a treasured part of this community and he’s always had a thing about pillows. He makes them and carries a collection wherever he may be. We are holding a “Pillow Exhibition” at Wayside Monday 8 August from 5pm to 7pm. There will be no pillows for sale and we won’t be asking anyone to part with any money for any reason. We want to honour Pee Wee because we love him. Call in if you have some minutes to spare and to catch the love of pillows perhaps, but especially, our love for Pee Wee. There is every chance that Pee Wee himself will sing a song or recite some poetry. We promise no dignitaries, no celebrities, no lectures, no fuss. It will be a night when we honour a good man. We promise no value for money; we promise nothing that might lead to excitement or inner peace; we promise only that you might remember that a city is judged by how it treats its poorest, and character is revealed in generous acts that cannot yield any return. It will be fun and very Wayside.
An urgent phone call came from a man suffering a, “religious emergency”. He was down in the cafĂ© and I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing to discover what a religious emergency might be. An elderly alcoholic man told me that he’d accidentally touched a black man this morning and he wondered if he might have been rendered unclean or in need of prayer. “Mate!” I said with a tone that was confronting but full of compassion and sadness, “You do know that Jesus wasn’t a white man?” Genuinely bewildered he eventually said, “But I’ve seen photos!” “My funny old sausage, we’ve only had photography since about 1850. I promise you, Jesus must have looked like Klinger from MASH.” He shuffled away saying, “Ahhhh” but I think I only deepened the religious emergency.
My heart aches for America. This week they passed a bill in Texas ensuring people could carry concealed guns on all their college campuses. Various students gave testimony to how they feel safer knowing that there could be so many gun-toting students. All of us can at times turn people that ought to be friends into enemies, but to turn them into targets? The election process over there was always bewildering to me but this time around has taken my confusion to a whole new level. I’m nobody in the scheme of things but it looks like I’m watching an empire go down in history. Momentous times and so much at stake. Australia owes much to America and for a long time we counted the American way and approach to things as something to be unthinkingly copied, but dear God above surely now is the time to pull back. How could any leader over there arrest the headlong plunge into “everyone for themselves” and “rich is right”. America has many enemies but it looks like most of them put their hand on their heart when they sing the national anthem. If it all implodes, we’ll have to erect a memorial that reads, “We take it to be self-evident that all men are created isolated.” Our world so needs an outbreak of love.
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Rev Graham Long AM
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Kings Cross

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