Last Week: It was mainly a catch up week with my other?/regular?/non-street? circle of friends. On Tuesday I went back to the Sisters of Mercy night meal, after a two week break from my first visit. As I walked in Sister Apithenia said "Hi John", without any hesitation of thought. I think her name was Apithenia, or something close, I can't quite remember...(how bad do I feel!)
Feet: On Monday morning the straps on my sandal broke again, and so I took them off. I spent the next two days walking around on bare feet. It was something I considered to do for my whole walk as Jesus said to do in a couple of verses when he sends out the disciples. But I had been concerned about broken glass on the pavement. Since I have been out, I have learned the city cleaners wash and sweep all the streets and sidewalks every night and I have hardly seen anything to worry about at all. So I wandered about, watching closely where I walked at first, but less so later on. Being on bare feet it was significantly slower traveling around, picking my way and being more sensitive over rough spiky ashfelt. After two days my feet were a bit swollen, even when I put my sandals back on, but I think it would be only a matter of a weeks adjustment period and then they would harden up and be fine. The only real area of concern to me was going to the toilets. At the worst ones there is a fair bit of urine and water on the floor and so I avoided them or picked my way very carefully.
As I walked around I thought again about the connection between bare feet and holy ground. Why is it important? Yes God tells Moses to take off his sandals in God's presence, but that doesn't give me a logical reasoning behind the action. Perhaps it is about being connected physically to the earth which is 'creation'. Someone suggested that the Earth itself is God's house. That the older Judaism didn't see someones death as the time for going to Heaven, but as the time you lie in the 'house of the Lord', that is lie in the 'ground' until the time of resurrection for Judgement Day, before then being sent to Heaven. But then wearing sandals wasn't an issue for Jesus when he walked around. I think he may have asked his disciples not to wear them on their short journey more as a challenge to them. He likes to challenge people in thought and action, and as the disciples already had little possessions, perhaps it was one of the few added physical challenges he could give them...
Certainly I felt like more of a homeless person, without any footware. At one point a staff member from the Brotherhood of St.Lawrence came by and offered to get me a pair of shoes, but I declined. I went into a few shops to look at some sandals and see how much they cost to replace. The cheapest sandals at Myer were $90, an unobtainable fortune! Other stores had some around $30 (still beyond my means) and of course there were those colorful 'Crocs' (rubber cloggs) that seem to be everywhere I look now. As it turned out I went to have dinner with a friend on Thursday and he had bought me a new pair of sandals to wear! I had not mentioned the issue to him, it was just an idea he had, and followed through on. So timely! Woo Hoo :)
Tram: Fighting that tram riding temptation took a backward step this week. I had couple of rides left on my ticket but as I went out to World Vision I thought I would delay stamping it so that it would still be valid to return on within the two hours I thought I would need to get back. As I was reading my book I looked up to see the inspectors walking around checking everyone's tickets, except mine, and then they got off. Wow I had been overlooked and lucky as I didn't have any ID to prove my address for the fine, which would have meant the cops and then a nice little house of cards would have all collapsed. I stamped my ticket and considered myself warned...
Of course the very next day, as I went to a friends house, I thought I only had one journey left and maybe I should save it for when I really really needed it, and I had seen the inspectors yesterday so I probably wouldn't again for a while... nope they got on and I had one of those guilty moments where your heart suddenly lurches against your ribs in fright! I stamped my ticket as the inspector gave me a friendly warning, but let me off, and then proceeded to go and book another offender. Now I was really warned and beating myself up at my stupid risk for no real reason. At least I have no more tickets and so I haven't had the temptation, and I really promise I have learned my lesson.
Two escapes in two days. Did God help me from getting into trouble? or was it just luck?
Blog and Catch ups: I have been very surprised by the interest people have had in this Blog and had many good talks with people about it. Thanks for letting me know your responses, it has been an unexpected although welcome part of the journey. One person even prayed for the homeless and it was his first prayer to God since childhood, how good is that! At 1:30am on Sunday morning I even had the boyfriend of a girl I had spoken to earlier in the week, spot me at the city square, and he came over to pray briefly with me! On Sunday morning I went to St.Martins Church. It was the most casual Church I have been to, but that just made it feel very homely. You could get a cup of tea or coffee down the back at any time, the Pastor sat on a couch in the front row, there was an intermission half way through, and someone even bought along their pet bird, uncaged. I thought that was very cool! The sermon from John Smith ran longer than any of Mark Leachs [he has a reputation for long ones, wink], but it was just as good. He spoke about the Beatles perspective of love Vs Christ's love, at one point someone interrupted to correct him on a Beatles fact. I think that should be one of those laws: 'No matter what you think you know about the Beatles, someone close to you will always know more'. Everyone was really friendly and afterwards I was speaking to a girl about how it would be interesting to see the difference in my perceptions of homelessness and the official stats and info in a book like the Homelessness Resource Book from Urban Seed, and the next thing I know she is giving me the money to go and buy it. An act of generosity to match her smile. Thanks! And another person just emailed me for permission to pass the blog on to people at her country church...hey it's a public blog, enjoy:)
Australia Day: I went to the United Prayer Meeting at Festival Hall on Friday (Australia Day). It was pretty good and I was impressed with Pastor Danny Nalliah whom I had not heard speak before (from Catch The Fire Ministrys who organized the event and had recently been in court for the Islamic vilification case). While I was there I saw an odd looking guy kneeling at the front during the prayer. He looked like Fabio but with curly hair. I had also seen him at the SPC lunchtime service earlier on in the week (I finally worked out the service is on in a little section up the front right of the Cathedral, not in the main section). As I trammed back into the city (city circle free tram) he saw me and jumped on to say hello and introduce himself. He told me he was from Queensland and did work there with homeless street people too! Once in the city I found it way too crowded and I didn't see any street people I knew around, so I went out of the city to visit some friends. I wonder if other street people also felt a bit intimidated by the crowds?
Dougy Update: I came by the Steps, Saturday night, and Dougy was sitting there and drinking with a different indigenous man I had not spoken with. I stopped to chat with Darren, a few meters away, and a couple of minutes later a crowd and some police gathered behind me. Turning around I saw Dougy slumped on the steps, not moving and the other fellow was shouting out, while lying face down and handcuffed, a short distance away. There was a lot of red stuff on the ground next to Dougy but I was fairly sure it was just spilt Port from a bottle nearby. Someone said the other guy had hit Dougy over the head with the bottle. There was a big bloody gash on his head and I wondered if he might be dead? I hadn't thought about that possibility before. It was certainly something that could happen; I might come along one day and find someone I had met wouldn't be 'around' anymore. I watched for a bit and couldn't see any chest movement but he finally twitched and a cop crouched down, with blue latex gloves on, and checked his pulse. Next came the ambulance and the medics got him up and onto a stretcher. He was dazed and calling out for for his mate Robbie, who wasn't there. We looked at each other as they slid him into the ambulance, and then drove away, lights flashing.
The crowd around were happy, having enjoyed a good spectacle, they had no concern or empathy for the events just past. The cops took some more photos and then sealed off the area with their police tape. Then along came the choir and, backs to the tape, we started to sing.
Death: One of our choir members was killed in a car accident just over a week ago. Many other people, this week, have have also talked about the recent death of a friend or relative. Not really a theme you think seriously about until you are directly impacted by it. For some street people it had been the marking point of the start of an addiction.
Street Core: Well as usual, when I am thinking about an issue, God seems to answer it in an amazing way. This week I had been thinking about my passive approach (ie not approaching people I haven't spoken to before, and letting them decide whether to talk to me or not) and had mentioned to a few people that: if the core regular street people I had often seen around hadn't decided to come and talk to me by now, then they probably wouldn't. And I was thus debating at to whether I should approach them or just work with those I had already made contact with. Well... all the five main street people I hadn't yet had contact with came and chatted with me in the last two days. How's that!
At the Church of Hope dinner, one Guy called Sam came and sat near me, then got up two minutes later and sat near me on the other side, then got up and moved around a few more times before deciding to ask me if I knew one of the other street people that had mentioned me to him. Then we had a good chat about how big and awesome space and the universe was, and whether God had created other creatures on other planets. He thinks so, the possibilities are endless, he said.
Also at CoH another homeless man, nick named the Bishop, because of his big white beard and glasses, came up and introduced himself. He said he felt God telling him to go to Church with me tomorrow, and asked where I going. When I told him that in the morning I would be heading to St.Martins, he was very excited as he said he had just been talking about John Smith to someone else, but never been to his Church. I arranged to meet him in Smith Street in the morning, but he never turned up. I hope he is ok.
One of the girls was playing with one of those little rubber bouncy balls at the steps (and running straight into the intersection after it, without looking, whenever it got away from her, which was often) and then it got lost. Well I had new bright yellow replacement bouncy ball in my bag that I had kept from out of the 'bon bons' Goaty and I had opened a few weeks ago. She was very pleased, and then I went with one of her friends and sat and talked with him at the Night Rider bus stop for an hour while we waited for it, at the city square.
Sunday night after church I was dropped at the steps by a friend, and later I sat down in the station around the corner near the ticket window. Poker Jack (a friend of a friend I had met a couple of months ago) walked by and I said hello. He said hi, and walked straight on, I'm not sure he recognized me. I became concerned that being around the corner that no one would be able to see me from the street and I was limiting my opportunity to meet people. As I sat there I saw a young Fiji'an homeless girl that was often about. She came and sat next to me and asked what I had done today. I told her about the two Church services I had been to, and then asked about her day. Not much had happened, she said, she had got out of lock up and was wanting to go up to Shepperton but had to wait around for her court case to come up in a couple of weeks. She told me she had been caught stealing stuff. I asked why she slept rough, and she said she had gone and looked at a couple of women's shelters but didn't like them. She didn't expand why. soon she lay down to sleep where we were sitting, under the ticket window, and I lay down for a nap as well.
A bit later young Indian man cam along and woke me up, said "are you cold?" and asked "Do you want to come and stay at my place?" It was an interesting question from the point of view I had thought about asking that to a homeless person myself last year, when I was just thinking about these issues. Now in the reverse position, I thought 'not a chance, I don't know who you are and I would be concerned for my safety...' I just told him "Sorry I don't know you, thanks for the nice offer." He seemed to understand but I also thought 'why did you wake me up? Don't bother me, if you see someone sleeping just leave them alone...' Then he went over to the girl, crouched down over her, arm against the wall, and shook her until she woke up. Then he said to her "You know me, we talked the other day, do you want to come to stay at my place?" Her response was a friendly "Can you please take your arm off the wall, it's invading my space." He didn't move it and kept asking her if she wanted somewhere to stay. She just kept asking him to move his arm, which he wouldn't, and she became more and more distresses about it, and rightly so. Then she shouted at him to go away and he finally moved his arm, got up and started screaming insults at her, before walking off. Yes, definitely someone you don't want to go with, proving you just can't trust someone no matter how nice they might first seem. Safety in numbers, in visibility, and in familiar surroundings.