Dear Inner Circle,
Dame Marie Bashir was in our lift yesterday and I saw her put her arms around an aboriginal woman. She said, “Every time I see an aboriginal sister, I just want to say, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Dame Marie was here for our celebrations to mark NAIDOC Week. There were few happier places on earth than Wayside yesterday. We were able to peer into a future Australia that will enter into it’s own maturity because it knows that to love the land means to love the people of the land.
A homeless woman rushed through our front door the other day to say that someone had set fire to another homeless person’s mattress. There is a mattress set up near the theatre right behind us. We were about to rush to the fire and the lady said, “Don’t rush, I put the fire out.” She went on to explain that she’d poured all of her wine over the fire. I’m not sure if she was expecting we’d replace her supply of plonk or perhaps nominate her for an Order of Australia.
A man with quite a sad face approached me this morning. I don’t think we’ve spoken before although I recognised him as someone who appears here from time to time. “I miss Gary” he said. “Gosh, so do I” I replied. It’s been over a year since Gary, one of our much-loved visitors had a massive stroke on the footpath and died. He spoke for a while about how Gary taught him what friendship was. When he was first homeless and sleeping in a park, if Gary had a sandwich, he’d share half with his mate. Gary would choose to sleep in the more exposed spot, offering his mate some sense of protection from danger. He gave me half a dozen examples of the wisdom of Gary. Many of you would have heard me tell a story of a shabby bloke who confronted me one day when I was in a hurry to leave. It was some months after my son had died and I was coping even if I was flying on auto pilot. Gary blocked my way in the front door and I couldn’t get past this shabby man with the goofy look on his face. Eventually he put his arms around me and kissed my cheek and whispered, “That was from your son”. That was Gary and we became close friends and I miss him too.
Another homeless fellow told me that he’d like to buy a farm and help people get off drugs. “I’ve got a couple of million in the bank but it wouldn’t be enough for a farm,” he said. My first reaction was to point out that if he had a million dollars, he could probably afford some warm clothes and a roof over his head. I was quickly reminded of a job I had in ancient times in a boys reformatory. Every little kid had a story of rich parents or a rich uncle whose wealth was beyond calculation. Every little boy had a story about how their rich relative would appear one day soon and all would be revealed. Likewise it’s not uncommon for homeless people to tell me that they’ve got a winning lottery ticket or that they are due to inherit riches. I suspect there is a longing in all of us that intuits worth for which there is no evidence. I suspect it is not an unhealthy response but rather a crude and clumsy attempt to reach for the worth that is given by virtue of being alive and part of society.
Dame Marie said while we were lining up for food yesterday, “I reckon Jesus must peer down from heaven, look at Wayside and say, ‘Thank goodness someone is getting it right.’” It is any wonder that we love that woman so much? Full honour to Monique, Will, Ma’Ata and Annelise in our Aboriginal Project, our volunteers and everyone else who made our NAIDOC Week such a fabulous success.
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,
Rev Graham Long AM
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel