Thursday, 23 May 2013
Dear Inner Circle,
Pancakes for breakfast in our Youth area yesterday was a wonderful start to the day. More than the food, I was nourished to observe the skill of our youth workers managing deeply troubled young people with skill and respect. In recent months there has been a significant influx of young people and it has caused us, and the wider community of Kings Cross, a good deal of pain. We have to draw a line with bad behaviour and yet we know that underneath every screwed up face, telling us they "don't care", is a little kid yelling, "I wish to God that someone cared." Our youth workers use food and music and computers or anything else they can that will enable them to get alongside young people (rather than 'from above'). We know they've all been told thousands of times that they need to be responsible. But 'responsible' is a noun that really refers to the verb of 'being responsive'. Being responsive is an act of one person to another. Our youth workers and our fabulous volunteers are masters at looking for the moment when a young person can see them. There is no response until you can see a person in order to respond. Every now and then, someone wakes up and realises that they're not on their own and then they move towards health and life.
I ducked into the cafe yesterday to buy a drink and head up to my desk. "Can I see you, Rev?" I sat with a man who I've known for a couple of years and who recently lost his younger brother to suicide. He was having a bad case of the "what ifs" that seem an essential part of grieving. What if I'd visited my brother more often? What if I'd telephoned every time I wondered about him? What if I'd confronted him harder on his destructive behaviour? "When you're finished, Father, can I have a quick word?" came from an older bloke that I'd never seen before. After a few minutes I moved to the next table where the old fella told me he'd been not long released after serving 15 years in prison. He told me that he'd hit the bottle in a big way but was now trying to wake up to himself. He said he'd been sober for 6 days and he certainly was sober yesterday. He looked like a big drinker and I asked if he hadn't been sentenced to a brewery for 15 years. I listened to his story and came to the conclusion that he was deeply grieving for his wife that he'd lost before he went to prison and that he really wanted to do something with what was left of his life. "Can I see you, Father?" came from an older woman. I moved to the next table and a woman I'd never met before and with a very heavy accent, told me that she was sane but nevertheless worried that she might be in danger of losing her sanity. She has recently caught herself talking to herself out loud. She told me that she had been forced to marry her "cuisine". I was baffled and wondered if this was some kind of weird food fetish until I worked out that she was saying that she'd been forced to marry her "cousin". I think she was right to be worried about her sanity and I told her of our program that was designed to help people just like her. I was about to take her across to meet one of our amazing staff in our Day to Day Living program but another voice came, "Can I see you, Pastor?" A very rough looking diamond told me that he was a truck driver and how his long hours away from home helped ruin his family. His wife found another bloke and so he walked away from the family, including his four kids. He recently learned that his wife had died of cancer but he's emotionally paralysed, not knowing whether his kids hate him for deserting them and whether he'd be welcomed should he make an appearance. All of this took about 40 minutes and then I headed back to my desk without my drink.
Big respect to the people who've been coming to Gutter Philosophy classes. Next Wednesday, I'm finishing the history of Western philosophy. The following two weeks I'm giving over to just one philosopher, Martin Buber. Those two sessions should be fun as well as a mind stretch. The last two weeks of this journey will not relate to the prior weeks so if you're up for two weeks of challenging and fruitful thinking about philosophical anthropology (what makes a human being a human being), then feel free to just jump in for those two weeks. Email Guy Cooper to reserve your spot.
Two of our dedicated supporters who are trekking Kokoda later in the year to raise money for Wayside are holding fundraising events next month. We'd love for you to attend. Emma Halpin is hosting a Kokoda photography exhibition at TAP Gallery on Tuesday, 11 June from 6pm. More information here. Elissa Scott is hosting a rooftop party at Wayside on Saturday, 15 June from 7pm. You can buy tickets here.
I'm not far off my 9th anniversary at Wayside and if I'd had a slow day, I can't remember it. I must be the luckiest man alive.
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Click here to listen to podcasts of past Inner Circle's, aired on ABC 702's 'Afternoons with James Valentine'
Click here to read Graham's editiorial in the autumn edition of On The Verge, Wayside's quarterly newsletter.
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor