Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday 2nd March

A girl told me her brother is addicted to ice (a drug). The way he pays for the habit is to go to nightclubs, hook up with a girl and go to a Hotel room (hopefully getting her to pay for the room). Once they have had sex and she takes a shower, or goes to sleep, he will then steal her clothes and wallet, and head to his dealer.

I was woken up early, about 5am, and asked to move on and so I headed down to the bottom level of an underground car park stairway. A sign on the wall gave it four star security protection, but where I was sitting there was no cameras. Since it was warm, and there was no customer activity that early, I sat there for couple of hours, but didn't sleep as I'd rather move myself on at the first sign of activity than wake up to a confrontation. The time went pretty slowly.

About 8am I headed back to the meeting place to find the Jamboree, from last night, back in action. They had moved to the riverbank after Dougy and I left and now had just come back. It was day two of my fast and I was sitting there thinking about the 'no washing' thing (Jesus didn't wash his hands before a meal, the Pharisees pointed out at one time) when I was asked to take one of the indigenous women around to Lazarus House so she could shower and get a change of clothes. That hadn't happened before, being asked to take someone for a wash, interesting timing of events. I happily guided her around behind the Cathedral to the center, and the ladies there helped her with the shower and clothes. On the way back she was nervous about looking nice and asked me to go ahead so she could arrive on her own, and then was pleased to receive the flattery when she came back and sat down. Moments later Warren asked me to show him the place as well, and I headed off again and waited while he cleaned up. As we got back to the meeting place there were about fifteen cops standing there, closing down the Jamboree, and so we walked on by down to the Yarra.

That evening, at my usual Friday night tv gathering with friends, I told them about my fast and they were concerned enough about my smell, that they offered to wash my feet for me! But I declined. It was more about experiencing the extra strain the physical impact that being dirty and smelly would put on relationships, despite still being the same person inside. Thinking about the power it has to divide and separate people was certainly made clear that night when another friend said that if I hadn't washed by this time next week, then staying the night at his place would not be an option. An understandable lesson in consequences, but even if I'm smelly I'm still the same lovable me, aren't I..?


Bomber said...

Question for you CK,

Do you think that by spending so much time with 'The Crew' and the regular characters you write about on this blog you are missing the bigger picture and experiences which are challenging homeless Melbournians? Getting only one perspective?

Obviously I can only base this question on the stories you tell on this blog, and through the assumption that it is your goal to better understand and educate youself re challenges for the homeless.

Somthing I had been meaning to ask.

JJ Glamma said...

No, what I actually said - and reiterate now - was that you are welcome to stay any time; provided that you have either washed recently, or shower immediately upon entering the flat. Because, to be blunt, I don't want you stinking up the place where I live.

I think that's fair enough; it's exactly the same as non-smokers insisting that guests not smoke inside their houses.

To turn your question around - am I so obnoxious and unlovable that I deserve to have a mildly foul stench imposed upon me? (Admittedly the answer is arguably yes, but I don't think so - not in my house, anyway.)

A Christian who "fasts" while at the same time drawing attention to his fast and complaining to his fellow man about his suffering is not fasting.

Even if the complaint reaches the fellow man's nose, rather than his ears.

So, it wasn't a fast. Which I believe I already said to you that day. I also said that, if you were doing this to explore the social consequences of being unwashed then I was happy to oblige.

John Christopher said...

Bomber, Good question!

Yes, there is a fair bit of time spent with 'the crew' that would narrow my experience options, but overall I have spent less than 2 months hanging out with them (which is not that much in getting to know people). I am doing other things with people (around the time spent with them), and would still like to explore some other areas further as well.

The interesting thing is that the people I am with are changing. Currently I have only seen one of the crew (Warren [and a little bit of Robbie]) around in the last few weeks, and been spending a lot of time with street kids I had not met until recently. I haven't even seen Dougy in 3 weeks, which will be explained in my next post..

John Christopher said...

JJ, you make some good points.

I agree it is reasonable for you to ask me to wash when I visit (in a smelly circumstance) but sometimes people on the street are not interested in being reasonable. Thus if I chose a permanent lifestyle of 'not washing', would it then be a relationship breaker?

Re fasting, yes the Bible says it should be a personal 'hidden' exercise (so it is for the right spiritual reasons and not for self agrandisment). In this circumstance I feel I am doing it for the right spiritual reasons and being open and public about it (and everything else I'm doing in my first 3 months) is more important so people can discuss and learn from it.

JJ Glamma said...

I agree it is reasonable for you to ask me to wash when I visit (in a smelly circumstance) but sometimes people on the street are not interested in being reasonable.

As I've said before, you will not be able to help these people if you make the same life choices they have made and thus become just like them.

Thus if I chose a permanent lifestyle of 'not washing', would it then be a relationship breaker?

Yes. Of course it would. Just like it would be if you decided to smoke cigars and continuously blow the smoke in my face.

Re: fasting.

I cannot look inside your heart and know whether you are being self-aggrandising or whether you genuinely believe your circumstances constitute an exception to the Biblical guidelines for fasting.

I would note that one of Satan's favourite tricks is to convince people that their circumstances give them good reasons for ignoring rules and commandments that apply only to other people.

In any event, abstaining from food is a choice of fast which can be done privately and which causes suffering only to the faster.

Abstaining from washing puts the burden of suffering well and truly on those around the "faster". It is thus not a fast in any Christian sense of the word.


John Christopher said...

JJ, I have done some further reading and not washing (being dirty) is a most Christian act.

It is a common Christian trait to do something outwardly to reflect an inner change or contemplation.

I draw your attention to Nineveh. Here after Jonah's preaching for repentance the whole community responded with fasting, wearing sackcloth (a coarse uncomfortable clothing, usually made of animal hair and most likely smelly) and also putting ashes on their body and/or head (ashes is interchangeable with dust and dirt). Even their King sat in the dust until God relented.

This is what the Israelites often did as a sign of Repentance, Humility and/or Mourning eg: Nehemiah 9:1 "Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them."

This is also enacted out on the Christian calendar with 'Ash Wednesday' (the lead into Lent [a period of 40days of fasting in the lead up to Easter]) where the priest uses ashes or dirt to mark the sign of the cross on peoples foreheads.

JJ Glamma said...

JJ, I have done some further reading and not washing (being dirty) is a most Christian act.

I never said it wasn't Christian. I said it wasn't fasting.

John Christopher said...

Fasting is generally defined as an abstinence of food but depending on cultural context it may include water or may be an abstinence of anything (as my experience with World Vision and the 40hr famine promotes).

Wikipedia's reference on fasting says Judaism fasting does include abstinence of many other things (as well as not cleaning teeth and washing clothes) "On the two major fast days it is also forbidden to engage in any sexual relations, wash or bathe, apply cosmetics or creams, and even wear leather shoes, which are considered a symbol of extravagance."

So even if you don't see my 'not washing' as fasting, then it at least goes hand in hand with fasting. In any event I am just exploring an idea I had, and so I thank you for stimulating me to think about it further :)

Max Henshaw said...

Bomber and JJ, watch out, you've been warned!....Becrowe might have something to say to you because you've probably asked CK some questions she doesn't like...she is a tireless defender of all things christian and also believes that christians are above questioning. I'm probably heading straight to hell for writing this...perhaps becrowe and her prayer group could pray for me....please pray for me becrow, I want to live right next door to you if I make it heaven.

Oh and CK, take a shower if you have the one wants to be stuck on a tram with stinky faux bum.