You can sleep lying down and you can sleep sitting up.. but the other day I was so tired I fell asleep standing up! (on a busy sidewalk for about half an hour.. anyone could have bumped me over but they didn't.)
In the morning I stopped by the Life Center and had a closer look at the Nescafe Vending Machines down the back (Coffee, tomato soup and hot Chocolate drinks). They're always very popular, too popular, which made me suspicious as I didn't think this many people had that much money to spend on hot drinks.. On closer inspection they're FREE!!! Oh.. my.. Lord.. all this time and I didn't realize..!! No wonder they're popular. I have one, Hmmm.. chocolate.. with winter coming this will be very handy, no wait. Now I feel a new battle of self regulation coming on.. Damn you temptuous Satan! Damn you to Hell! (where you belong ;)
Next I went for an interview for the TMA paper(The Melbourne Anglican). The new ArchBishop (doing a good job getting out there talking with people) had suggested to the media dept I would be 'an interesting person to talk to'. I was a bit surprised at first, I was just out happy doing my own thing and didn't think anyone in the upper Church echelons would notice or be really be interested, at least not from a positive perspective.. They probably think what's this dodgy character doing messing around in this area of theology with out a Doctorate under his belt? But no, they were very friendly and wanted to do a feel good human interest piece. So despite my general inability to articulate my ideas well verbally, the interview was good and the article came out in this months (April) edition and it covers what I'm doing very well (and nothing was taken out of context, so score one for the Christian Media!).
In the afternoon I had my bag stolen, which for me was everything I owned! (Although they left the bucket and cleaning materials) I really only blame myself. To get into the State Library you are not allowed to take in a bag. There are lockers, for a dollar a day, but with no money I needed to find a stash spot outside while I was in there. Stash spots are places you hide stuff which most homeless people have all over the city, so you don't have to carry your sleeping bag and things around all the time (which also marks you as a homeless person). One charity offers free lockers but they're too far out of town. For a couple of months I had been leaving my BROWN COLES CARRY BAG with sleeping bag and BLACK NIV BIBLE WITH WATER MARKED RED EDGED PAGES WHICH I BOUGHT IN TANZANIA TEN YEARS AGO behind the sign at the entrance of the Swanston St Cross Culture Church of Christ opposite the Library. That had been working fine as the Church had not been open during the day and there was no pedestrian activity in the area. But this week RMIT University had started using the Church hall as a lecture theatre and so now hundreds of young people walked right by that spot all day. I should have realized the change in circumstances would create a higher risk, but oh well, that's the thing we all love.. hindsight. I spent hours searching the surrounding bins in the hope whoever took it would see there was nothing of value in the bag and maybe would dump it nearby, but no luck. So as you're probably already thinking.. I hope the person who took the bag reads the Bible in it and gets something positive from it, and bless you (Jesus says to love your enemys, and that's a challenge that could take a lifetime.. so I'll start by verbalising it in my mouth and see if it connects to my heart later on..).
In the evening things were a bit better as a friend had another sleeping bag for me and the Steps Outreach girls said they would bring me in a replacement Bible the next night. Almost back to normal, thanks! After they left there were a few people sitting around and they decided to go behind St.Pauls to drink some goon and they invited me along. We sat around and started singing songs, a disaster for me as I don't know any complete songs to sing?! I know plenty of choruses but not the complete contemporary songs, except U2's Helter Skelter and a few Church songs, which they seemed happy to hear, but I'm sure they were relieved when I switched to just drumming on my bucket and using my scrubbing brush to make some whooshing noises.
Around 1am I took a break and headed back to the Library to look some more for my bag, but again no luck and I went back to the gang and found one of the guys, completely drunk, had gone to take a leek and fallen down the stairs and smashed his head open at the bottom. The guys had picked him up and carried him back up to the top and layed him down on some cardboard boxes. There was blood was running across the ground so I grabbed my sponge and ran down to McDonalds, soaked it with water and dashed back while they called an ambulance. As we cleaned his head we saw a round chunk missing from the back of his head and someone said they could see a bit of his brain. The ambos turned up and took him away and things settled down again. Warren turned the cardboard over and lay down, the card board was an invaluable insulator not to be discarded on this very cold night. The other two also lay down on some cardboard to go to sleep but I stayed awake, not willing to sleep in an area with people I didn't know but also not yet tired enough to head off. So I just sat for a while.
About 3am a gang of five teenage guys came by. They were very friendly and knew Warren and Angela, who went back to sleep after having a quick chat with them. One of the guys was Dirk, who beat up Dougy the other night, the others I didn't know. I chatted with one guy(Mick) who showed me the many scars on his arm where he cut himself when he was bored, and he also said he enjoyed it. We talked for a bit and then the guys were deciding where to go next and got into an argument. They were telling Mick to 'piss off' but he didn't want to leave and so they gave him a countdown from 10. He still didn't leave and so one of them, a hugely overweight guy, punched Mick in the face. Mick went to swing back but missed and connected with one of the other guys in the face, and suddenly it was a big brawl. There was punches and shoving among the gang from all directions. I shook Warren awake to let him know what was happening but he took one look and rolled over back to sleep. As I sat and prayed the fight moved away and down to Flinders St. Every couple of minutes they would stop and there was some shouting and then more punches were thrown again. It went on for about half an hour.
Angela got up and went down to see what was happening. After a few minutes I also went down to where the brawl was to check that Angela was ok and she came back with me and lay down to go back to sleep. As I sat down again it moved out of sight and around the corner. Then I looked up and saw the huge guy walking back alone towards me. His face was red with welts and his top was soaked in sweat. I stood up and he came over and wrapped is arms around me and started crying. He said he needed some blessing and so I prayed out loud for peace and forgiveness as he gripped my shoulders tightly. After a few minutes he let go and sat down for a moment. He was quiet and then said "I've sinned". It seemed a powerful and significant moment, then he got up and walked away. A few minutes he came back with Dirk, and Dirk came over and hugged me tightly and started crying. I hugged him back and I was a bit surprised at what was happening. Then I looked at the big guy and he circled his hand suggestively.. right, prayer! So I prayed for Dirk as well until he calmed down. Then he let go and they headed back out into the night.
I sat for another hour thinking about what had happened. I was amazed how God had put me in such a position where I could be an outreach to some guys at 4am down the back of a city alley, not something I would have considered a few years ago. Angela got up, unable to sleep anymore because of the cold breeze. She asked me to walk down to the station with her and as we walked she told me she was going to catch the train out to 'anywhere' for a few hours. The trains start at 5am and are warm and out of the wind, so you can sleep on the seats before the morning rush hour and get back off when it arrives back in the city. She asked if I wanted to come along but I have a general rule for myself not to leave the city as a part of my street work, so I said goodbye and headed back to the alley. Dirk was there and trying to sleep next to Warren with some cardboard sheets pulled over the top of them for further warmth. I too was freezing and got some cardboard for myself to see how effective it was. It was good for insulation from the ground but on top it had little effect and the chilled wind always found a way through the barriers I erected. I lay there for a while longer before they both got up and we headed back to Swanston St. We all stood against the pub wall and yearned the morning sunshine to warm us up, bit by bit, painfully slowly. But it was warmer, and I fell asleep.