Last week was the anniversary of the death of a mate.
Leigh was a young man I got to know through working with adolescents in ‘out of home care’.He was 13 when I first met him, alwayslikeable as a teenager.
I reconnected with Leigh after his release from prison.
Together with the support of his Nan, Aunty and many others Leigh began a new journey.
His courage and effort to make change was amazing.
Leigh had reason to be ‘angry at the world’.
He had reason to be angry at some of the people in his life.
From time to time this anger did surface, but he always came through it.
As I sat with his Nan, who he adored and who stuck with him through thick and thin, but never let his sometimes ‘bad behaviour’ go unchecked, we spoke about how much he was missed, and how he believed stuff about himself that was not true. At the table was one of Leigh’s aunties who along with her family adored him too.
We chatted and shared memories of Leigh.
As I was leaving I was handed copies of three letter Leigh had written but never posted.
One to his mother, one to his brother and one to Nan.
As I read these the Leigh we knew and loved, his true self shone through, thoughtful, reflective, caring, loving and honest.
Leigh was part of a very broken ‘system’, one which has been in the spotlight again in recent days. (There were those in that system who encouraged and supported Leigh too).
We miss Leigh, and will remember him for who he was, not for the person he sometimes thought he was, because much of who he thought he was reinforced by a system where compassion and love often give way to harshness and punishment.
It’s been a year since you departed Leigh and those who loved you best, miss you most.
There is often discussion about speaking-preaching and being and doing.
IS one more vital than the other?
How many bible verses can we quote to each other to ‘prove’ our point??!!
One such writer suggest than often what we hear may soon be forgotten, which in no way throws doubt on the spoken word.
Perhaps its the human thing to do to justify our own position or calling?
I recently caught up with a mate who is a story teller and artists, as he draws and tells stories. He creates images which stay with you, and so reinforce what is being said.
He has been in recent days working with a large corporation as they transition into a new phase. At one of the venues he was going out to get his morning coffee As he walked past the reception area, where the person who had put all the arrangements in place for the day, was sitting he simply asked if they would like a coffee too.
In 20 years working in that position this person had never been asked if they would like a coffee. This became the talking point among the 100’s attending his seminars. Why? maybe because his actions reflected his words?
Over recent weeks my partner The Ruth and I have taken numerous wedding and funeral services. After one funeral recently someone approached Ruth and commented that when we lead people through this times and as we sit and eat with them it brings calm and offers hope for the future.
So if you’re not someone who gets to speak in public or you’re the silent’ type, don’t be embarrassed , you’re actions are important. Maybe, just maybe, actions do speak louder than word??
God help me to know when to speak up AND when shut up!!!!
It happened again today as I was was on my way to meet with someone over coffee (again!!).
I was stopped by two strangers who were on for a chat.
The subject heaven and a woman who posts on youtube about her many and varied experiences in heaven.
According to this person there are Hotrods, Harley’s (among other things) and even a flying school, which Christopher Reeves is the CEO of?
The drift is that what ever your passion in this life, your wildest dreams will be realised in ‘heaven’ and your passions continue, only on steroids!!
Having spent sometime thinking about it it occurred to me that we have some ‘out there’ ideas on stuff like heaven, Angeles Demons and the like based on little knowledge or true understanding.
I grew up in an era where ‘end -times’ books, speakers and people with graphs and models ruled the world, at least in ‘Christian’ circles.
What always intrigued me was no one ever mentioned things that won’t be ‘in Heaven’ like poverty, abuse, exploitation, sexism and so on.
I could be wrong…perhaps we need to put what Jesus said in perspective and not take ‘literally’ or personally what said when it comes to the poor, marginalised, prisoners, children,the other, outcast,exploited and abused?
Moreover these are the things we ought to strive for now, no waiting for Heaven!! ‘your will on earth as in heaven;!!
Perhaps it’s all hotrods and Harley’s in heaven,,,,,,,but I think not, its much more, so lets make a bit of heaven here and now and wait to be pleasantly surprised by ‘heaven”!! I hope there is cheese in heaven!!!!!!
It’s been a while since I last wrote anything here. In that time there has been much of the ‘stuff of life’ going on. So much in fact I’m not sure where to start, what to say and what to leave unsaid.
Journeying with people as they begin married life, others who are laying loved ones to rest and hearing stories of injustices endured by indigenous peoples, and those who have endured loss due to decisions made to become the person they believe they are.
I often feel inadequate in many of the situations I find myself in, sometimes its a stranger who engages in conversation.
One of those took place today.
As I was parking the bike a person approached as blurted out How can there be a God when the world is so shit?? (a reasonable question)
What followed was a comprehensive list of what is wrong with the world, conspiracy theories and the like. The conversation, which was one sided, concluded with ‘well I have enough of this shitty world, so everyday i throw myself in front of trucks and buses because I’ve had enough’.
Where is a person supposed to go after a conversation like that? (to the pub????)
So whether we ourselves are experiencing darker moments or we are journeying with others through dark times, may brighter days await us.
Sometimes the words of others best help us understand the darker times. These words from an Elder at Parihaka (NZ)
After the shades os darkness comes the dusk of dawn, whilst before lies the shimmering glory of a fair day. (he maru ahiahi kei muri te maru awatea he pakiarohhi kei Mia)
…then this line from a song called..we’re all in this together we’re all in this together walking the line between faith and fear….. (not sure of its origins but heard it on a cd by old Crow Medicine Show)
This from the good book in Psalms, read at a funeral recently.
He shall cover you with his feathers, under his wings shall you trust:his truth shall be your shield and *buckler. (*a smaller shield fitted to the wrist for added protection?)
The Storm (our rugby league side) are in the Nation Rugby League grand final on Sunday and, of course, there is the small matter of the Australian Football League grand final on Saturday. (The Western Bulldogs v the Sydney Swans, in case you’ve missed who is playing.)
There is nowhere you can go this week where you will no see evidence of the biggest day of sport in our city (yes it’s bigger than the Melbourne Cup, if you ask me.) We even have a public holiday on Friday because of the Grand Final Parade. What other country (in fact what other city) has holidays for a sporting parade and a horse race?
Our sign this week is a quote from an AFL coach Mick Malthouse. He is, apparently, famous for his quotes and especially for his quotes of other people’s quotes. A quick search finds Mick quoting, or paraphrasing, Confucius, Mao Tse Tung and Jesus.
“The meek may inherit the earth but they will never win games of football.”
In some Bible translations the word ‘meek’ is written as ‘powerless’ (and the Greek word has both meanings). In a society where the Roman invaders dictated every aspect of life this translations of Jesus’ words can make a great deal of sense. He was saying to his listeners that even though it seems that you can do nothing; you will prevail; and read your history books – where are the Romans now?
In a world where 1% control almost everything from media to banking and beyond it is easy for all of us to feel powerless and sometimes even useless. It is true that we may never change the world by our own individual actions but we can change the world of individuals. We are not powerless to alter the reality of people around us – a word, a smile, a offer of help can make the difference in people’s lives. I was in the city the other day, waiting to catch a tram – ahead of me in the queue to get on was an older lady with her bags of shopping. As she was getting onto the tram one of her bags split and cans and packets dropped everywhere. The first two people there to help her were two young men; they looked as if they were too cool to help an old lady but no, on their knees they scrambled about and picked up all her shopping – more than that they sat with the lady on the tram and chatted and laughed and shared time with her. It was lovely to see. When she got off they sat together and I heard one say comment on how lovely the lady was.
There were four people who had their views changed that day – the lads found out that not all older people are uncool; the woman found that not all young men in big baseball hats and baggy jeans are thugs and I saw that we are not powerless to make a difference in people’s lives.
Mr. Malthouse may be right; the meek will never win games of football but they will change the world.
p.s. This week most of Melbourne will be hoping that the Doggies will head out on Saturday to beat the Swans to win the Grand Final for the first time in 1000 years (or nearly) and the Storm can win the NRL final on Sunday. A big week for Melbourne sport, c’mon the Doggies and the Storm.
Here’s another “What would Jesus say today?” blogs.
2000 years ago Jesus said; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” In 2016 I would like to think he would say something like “Spread love as thickly as you would Nutella.”
This is not a new concept – this ‘love another’ stuff has been around for millennia. The church has been proclaiming it for as long as here has been a church. The work of loving our neighbour is what we should be doing. This is what the church is about (and by the church I mean the people that make up the church, that is you and me!).
Loving your neighbour is a simple concept – read the story of the Good Samaritan – the idea is that everyone is your neighbour and we should lavish as much care on them as we would do on ourselves. Easy idea – you’re already understood it, after just reading that sentence.
Now do think about doing it – think out spreading love around the place as thickly as I spread Nutella on bread (I at least need to see teethmarks when I bite it).
Think about treating people the same way you would treat yourself. Think about caring for someone, anyone, that person walking past on the street right now, as you would yourself.
Not so easy now is it? The concept is simple – the reality is anything but, the concept is really difficult.
But just because it’s difficult it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it to the best of our ability. Let’s be honest – we should strive for, but we will never manage, to love our neighbour as ourselves. We will attempt, but never quite, spread the Nutella as thick as we would for ourselves.
But let’s give it a go. Spread that stuff – love each other, love your neighbour who ever he or she might be.
Last night we held another “A Night Off the Streets”. It was a brilliant night – so many good things happened.
We had about 30 people turn up. We had so much lovely food, including apple pies that went down a treat to many variations of, “I haven’t had apple pie since I was a kid.”
So many people form the church are being so generous – with food and clothes and time. With your help we are making such a difference in some of the lives of the homeless and street people of Melbourne.
Yesterday we had a success story too. On the first week we opened (and for a couple of times afterwards) a homeless lady came for food. She had been living on the streets for a while and was doing it tough. She stopped coming and we didn’t see her for a while though,. She returned again last night and told us that this week week she had been given a place to live. She was so excited and wanted to share her news with us. We are all so happy for her!
We have issues too of course. One of the biggest problems we have is having enough stuff to give out. There is always a need for various things; blankets, socks, undies etc etc. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen the miracles that our sign talks about.
Firstly there was the Sock Run. Shepherd’s Victoria organised this and brought us 2,500 pairs of socks, and blankets etc. Here is a message I got from Dean (the organiser) about one of the donations he received.
On Saturday around 2:30pm, a young man arrived with his mother and sister, I was so upset when I found out as I was away due to nature calling. My wife (Lee) was at the table with Jess and Mick and luckily they took a photo.
His mum pulled up and woke him up, he had been at karate training and was tired. She advised that they had driven in from Lancefield and that he came to be there as he came in to see his mum and was very concerned about the homeless, he had saved his money ($3) and wanted to know how he could help. His mum had seen our page and talked to him about it. This little champion went out and collected 220 pairs of socks and a pair of runners.
They had left before I got back so I posted his picture on our site and thanked him and his mum for their incredible work and compassion. His mum contacted me yesterday on Facebook and told me his name is James and he is 6 years old.
but wait there is more –
Yesterday we took delivery of a car full (and I mean full) of blankets, clothes, toiletries, sleeping bags etc from the Social Justice Group of Goulburn Valley Grammar School.
The attached picture is a copy of the letter they sent.
We are so grateful to everyone that helps, for all the miracles (great and small) that happen weekly.
Working on the streets and being involved in peoples lives is challenging.
I get that, I get that it creates inconvenience, I get that it may not ‘be a good look’ for the streetscape and I even get its ugly…….HOMELESS IS UGLY, BUT its not those who are homeless which makes it ugly!!
I read a recent article in the online version of one of our newspapers The Age,following is a quote from our Lord Mayor taken from that article.
“We should be supportive of people that are vulnerable, but we shouldn’t romanticise the situation,” he said.
“There are challenging, illegal behaviours that we shouldn’t put up with, whether people are homeless or not.”
As I walk the streets on our city, I witness some of the behaviours of those who are not ‘the homeless’, so why do we make statements about those who are vulnerable and often have no voice??
Perhaps Mayor Doyle if we prioritised some real solutions, and made as much effort to care for vulnerable people as we do for the ‘top end of town’ we might believe you actually care.
Just because you give $$ to some organisations to give bandaid solutions, don’t think you can wash your hands of this issue.
You give them soup, but they want their lives back.
Back loitering tonight, its cold and wet. I sense despair on the streets tonight………..mean while many of our senior politicians make excuses about their own fate after the election. Leaders spew out hateful words about ‘others’ who are different…. one multi millionaire business man even suggested we needed a ‘dictator’ to sort things out!! I wonder if there are many who give a ‘*flying f*#k’ about those who live in misery.
This poem, while written in a different time, still reflects,I reckon on our society today. Obsessed with home ownership, status, creating personal wealth and the accumulation of more stuff we don’t need, sadly this includes some of us ‘churchies’ too!!!
They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown; For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet My window-sill is level with the faces in the street — Drifting past, drifting past, To the beat of weary feet — While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair, To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care; I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street — Drifting on, drifting on, To the scrape of restless feet; I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.
In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by, Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet, Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street — Flowing in, flowing in, To the beat of hurried feet — Ah! I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
The human river dwindles when ’tis past the hour of eight, Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late; But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street — Grinding body, grinding soul, Yielding scarce enough to eat — Oh! I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.
And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town, Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street, Tells of the city’s unemployed upon his weary beat — Drifting round, drifting round, To the tread of listless feet — Ah! My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street.
And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away, And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day, Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat, Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street — Ebbing out, ebbing out, To the drag of tired feet, While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street.
And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day’s sad pages end, For while the short `large hours’ toward the longer `small hours’ trend, With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat, Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street — Sinking down, sinking down, Battered wreck by tempests beat — A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street.
A ‘mens club’ on one of our city streets.
DREAMS is the name, I wonder if dreams are made or shattered here???
But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes, For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums, Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet, And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street — Rotting out, rotting out, For the lack of air and meat — In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street.
I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor? Ah! Mammon’s slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat, When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street, The wrong things and the bad things And the sad things that we meet In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street.
Another Winters night out on the city streets
I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still, And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill; But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet, They haunted me — the shadows of those faces in the street, Flitting by, flitting by, Flitting by with noiseless feet, And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street.
Once I cried: `Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure, Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.’ And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city’s street, And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet, Coming near, coming near, To a drum’s dull distant beat, And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street.
Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall, The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all, And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution’s heat, And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street. Pouring on, pouring on, To a drum’s loud threatening beat, And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street.
Life is a blur for many in the ‘most liveable city’ Local Council make it hard for people, often moving them on.
And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course, The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse, But not until a city feels Red Revolution’s feet Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street — The dreadful everlasting strife For scarcely clothes and meat In that pent track of living death — the city’s cruel street.