Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

I heard someone walking by mention that "call centers are the new factorys..." A very insightful comment.

Breakfast, watching the cricket, then afternoon tea in the city to celebrate my grandma's 92 birthday. Her goal is to live to watch the Olympics in Beijing, in two years time. I wonder if I make it to 92, what the Olympics would be like then? If I make it to 92 what would I be like then? I wonder if there are any 92 year olds in Africa? The irony of me snacking at a plush hotel cafe was not lost, but I was able to take some cake and muffin leftovers away with me (for others), in a container. Some farewells and then I was back on the streets, armed with delicious chocolate cake.

Later, I headed over to the corner of Gertrude and Brunswick Sts where a different food service called Food Not Bombs organized meals on the corner, and had a very good reputation. While I waited I watched a woman do Tai Chi in the park, then toss bread crumbs to about 2,000 hungry birds that surrounded her, each scrambling for a crumb, with some birds being the 'boss birds' dominating the others. There is some small correlation between this and the people at the food vans, but of course we are more calm and orderly. I wonder what dramatic change in circumstances to our city here might cause us to become like the birds? I have seen people behave in like this in images of food distribution relief in Somalia and other places. Just how far away culturally, and as individuals, are we from that kind of desperation? I gave another man, who was waiting, a piece of cake, and he commented on just how good it was. He asked if I was going to have a slice as well, but I said I was ok, it was for sharing. He said "Sharing is good, and the right thing to do, but you need to take care of yourself first, so save a slice for yourself later." But that didn't seem right to me. Why would I hold on to something if it can benefit someone now? I don't mind giving things away, as God always provides for my needs.

Another man came by and told us the Food Not Bombs people were on break until February. It was ok as we only had to walk one block down the hill to where others were waiting for the St.Vincents food van to arrive, outside the All Saints Church. As I leaned against the fence a young Asian man walked by and slowed down to look at the cake and muffins in the top of my bag. I offered him some and he eagerly took it. I asked him where he had gone for Christmas lunch? He said he hadn't eaten anything yesterday. I was surprised to learn he hadn't known about any of the free lunches for the homeless on Christmas day,and he was just as surprised to discover he had missed out. How could he not know? It's all people talked about in the last week, where they were going to eat next. He must be quite the loner, yet he was chatty enough with me. He told me that while he was living in an apartment now, that he had spent 6 months on the street, earlier on in the year. He said on the street you should never have/carry more than your sleeping bag, soap and a toothbrush, as you might need to drop your bag and run, at any time. Even at his lodgings he choose not to acquire any further possessions as you could be kicked out on to the street without warning, and if you cant take/carry something with you, then it is gone. So no point buying a tv or anything. He also said the biggest danger on the street was... poor footwear. If your shoes have a hole in the bottom then your feet keep wet and damp and they become a real health problem, and of course you need to be mobile to access services.

The van came by and announced that as it was Christmas week all the business that donated food were closed, and so all they had were a few hand made sandwiches (peanut butter, jam ect...) and we were limited to two each. So this was the flip side of Christmas. In the lead up there was virtually an unlimited spread food and places to eat, but on the other side, everyone was away and so things would be very scarce for a while. Do closed businesses and charitys just not care about the homeless after Christmas, was there no forward planing, or is that just how the cards are dealt? Can people cope for a coupe of weeks on reduced rations or will it cause them hardship? I think it will be ok, people are still getting 'something' to eat, and they mostly they some money to spend on food, if it becomes a priority. I handed out the rest of my cake and muffins.

Walking back through the city, I was wondering if I was really amongst the poorest and most marginalized of the city. Surely there was a deeper rabbit hole? I hadn't really talked (knowingly) to many criminals, prostitutes, and druggies. So I prayed to God about it, that if there was a deeper rabbit hole where I could talk to others about God then I would be interested in exploring it. A few minutes later two guys in a taxi called me over "Hey you with the cross, do you need a lift?" I shook their hand and said I was ok I was not going far. "You sure? We can take you where ever you like?" Very generous I thought, and noticed a beer in one guys hand. "I a good fu**" he said, and I realized they were trying to pick me up! "No, that's ok, see you later" I said and walked away thinking 'Not that kind of rabbit hole God!' While I don't mind talking to gay men, that whole scene was not one that I had considered I might be exposed to.

Back on the steps there was a couple of really really drunk men, beers in their hands, staggering about, swaying to music, and shouting out 'Warnieeee' celebrating his 700th wicket from earlier on in the day. I sat down with them. One said he had spent Christmas in 'lock up' and had a bet with some others as to how long it would be before the cops threw him back inside. Later as some cops approached they quickly put their wine bags in their backpacks and moved their beer cans behind some polls. The cops took the two cans they say, and threw them out, then moved on, and it was straight back to the celebration for the men.

As I stood there, another drunk man, Tony, came up and started talking to me, I could only understand about every third word, despite him keeping so close our chests kept bumping. His eyes were glazed over and I wondered just what intelligence and lucidity the man would display when he was sober, it was hard to imagine. I acted interested and tried to be a friend to him, as a reflection of Jesus, although I was slightly worried (for the first time) as I thought if I said the wrong thing his happiness could flip to anger, and possibly violence, in an instant. It felt like I was dancing with a Cobra.

Later he did get into a verbal fight with a much bigger angrier man, and they yelled into each other's faces a bit. When the bigger man pushed Tony, twice I had to put out my arm to stop him falling backwards down the steps, then they separated and the police came back and told us all to move along, they even told us to go and sit or sleep over at St.Pauls. I walked with Tony down the street a bit to Hungry Jacks where we met a girl Tony knew. She saw my top and said she used to be a Christian and we got into a long conversation about the existence of God. She no longer believed, saying "God, did nothing for me while I was a Christian, so I don't believe he exists..." and my argument just came down to "well I have met him, so I know he exists..." It was a good friendly chat and then she left, agreeing to disagree. About this time I noticed Tony had dropped his pants and was mooning everyone who walked by. So I decided it was a good time to make my exit.

Back over at SPC I went to sit down, when two security guards came over and told me to leave. I hadn't seen any Guards at St.Pauls before, and I told them the police had said to come over and sit here, but they were firm in their resolve that no one was allowed out the front of the building. I went back to the Arcade and slept. At one point I was woken up as some girls threw an empty milk crate at me, and then they ran away laughing.

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