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Jumping to confusions

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Dear Inner Circle,

A flash-looking bicycle circled around me and came to a skilful stop at the fence of our front garden. Only when the fellow got off the bike did I recognise a face that has been absent at Wayside for some time.

The young man threw his arms around me and then moved to our deck in a gesture that showed he was exhausted. In just a second I made up several stories in my head about where this fellow had been. I looked at his sophisticated bike and began to wonder how he’d obtained such an expensive thing. In two seconds, I’d constructed a story of prison and a bike that had been “borrowed”. Thankfully I didn’t ask any questions before he started to tell me how he’d been working delivering furniture. He told me that it was the heaviest work that he could have ever imagined. He told me of lumping insanely heavy lounges up flights of skinny stairs. Eventually I said, looking at his bike, “Well at least you’ve got something to show for all that hard work.” “Yeah,” he said, “I’ve got jelly legs and a heart attack.”[vc_row columns_on_tablet=”keep” padding_top=”0″ padding_bottom=”0″][vc_column h_text_align=”left” h_text_align_mobile=”left” v_align=”v-align-middle” use_background=”” width=”1/1″][tm_image image_id=”254″ link_image=”none” textarea_html_bkg_color=”#ffffff” caption_type=””][/tm_image][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row columns_on_tablet=”keep” padding_top=”50″ padding_bottom=”50″][vc_column h_text_align=”left” h_text_align_mobile=”left” v_align=”v-align-middle” use_background=”” width=”1/1″][tm_textblock textarea_html_bkg_color=”#ffffff”]If I were a rich man, I would have been at the Menin Gate in Belgium this week to remember the hundred-year anniversary of the battle known by most as “Passchendaele” or what some books call, “The Third Battle of Ypres”. In 1917, more rain fell on this battlefield than had fallen for seventy years, creating a version of hell unimagined before this time. Men and horses that fell into the mud could not be pulled out and a slow drowning followed, often as the soldier begged his mates to put a bullet in his head to speed up the process. The rain was so heavy that General Haig noted that it spoiled a tea party he held for his highest-ranking officers. Half a million people died in a fight to take a site of no strategic value, which was abandoned just weeks after it was taken. I stood at the Menin Gate a few years ago and thankfully no one tried to be wise. No one in uniform tried to say that something glorious had happened in this place. Instead two thousand of us stood in silence (it happens every night in this place) and eventually a choir sang Abide with me in French. It brought me undone to the point of feeling most awkward about weeping in public. I attempted to sing in English, “When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, oh abide with me”.

Damaged people mostly think the world is against them, even when surrounded by people who are on their side. Our journey with some people requires incredible patience when every gesture of kindness is explained away or greeted with suspicion. Such people are driven by the need to find things that will satisfy. They complain to me that our 50 cent coffee should be free. They tell me that a home-cooked, delicious meal is a rip off at just a few dollars. They often want to sue me or complain to higher authorities. One fellow who we well love, asked me this week with an aggressive tone, “Who is above you?” “We have a Board”, I told him, “but not many of them would think we’d done you wrong by charging $2.50 for the meal you just ate”. Yet sometimes the turn comes quickly. At the beginning of this week was a man who openly talked of suicide and at the end of this week, he’s taking steps to put his life back together. At the beginning of the week his question was, “What can you give me?” and at the end of the week, his question is, “How can I help?” That’s the pattern we see over and again and those two questions are a pretty good indicator of someone on the road back to life.

Some angel from heaven arranged for one hundred and twenty sleeping bags to be delivered here last week. If you are reading this, dear Angel, your timing was perfect as so many are sleeping out in this cold weather. Our deepest thanks.

Scores of you have also written to ask about my health. Thank you for such care. When I left hospital a few weeks ago, my surgeon said, “You’ll be having trouble with ‘urgency’ and with ‘frequency’. When I next see that surgeon, I’m going to award him for the most powerful use of euphemism since we started saying ‘detainees’ when we meant, ‘prisoners’. Soon I hope to be turning a corner toward better health instead of turning the corner to the nearest bathroom. The body is a wondrous thing and yet it is just plumbing.

So, we’re doing our best and many fabulous things continue to happen here every day.Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Graham

Rev Graham Long AM
CEO & Pastor
The Wayside Chapel

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