“How are you going today, George?” I ask while standing in line for a meal at the Lambert St Lunch, Camperdown.
George is 60ish with long gray hair and unshaven face; is wearing a t-shirt, too-small shorts and joggers and carries his walking stick.
“Oh, not that good. I nearly fell over on the way here.”
“That’s no good,” I reply. “What happened?”
“Have you ever had your leg just slide out, like this, while your walking,” he says while demonstrating a strange sideward leg movement, precariously. A lunch volunteer, plate of food in hand, is watching as our conversation unfolds.
“Maybe George, but have you had that happen?”
“All the time,” he says seriously. “It’s probably because I’ve got no knee caps, so I’ve got to be careful.”“No knee caps! I didn’t know you have no knee caps,” I said incredulously while bending over to stare at his knees. “What happened to your knee caps?”
“Oh, I lost those a long time ago,” he says with a dismissive wave of his hand, and then takes his turn at the front of the queue.
I move on from George, realising I forgot to ask what happened to his knee caps and said a quick hello to a schizophrenic, pot smoking, poverty ravished friend, John.
“After Roy visited the other day it got me thinking for two days straight. And it all came together when I realised that half stands for ‘have a little faith’. So I figure I’ve got half the story and I can’t wait to see Roy on Sunday and get the rest of the story,” John says, at pace.
“Life a bit stressful at the moment,” I comment, having learned over the course of many long conversations like this that it is a coping mechanism.
“Well my friend put $300-400 of our money through the pokies but that’s ok because I looked off the balcony today and someone was throwing out books and so I went down and came back with 16, the third of which was the Holy Bible so I turned to Revelation.”
I squeezed his arm and walked on to a quieter table and was happy to see him chatting away with Ringo, who lives nearby. It was probably Ringo’s first long chat with John and he showed considerable listening power, a small grace of God I’m sure. I knew I would have many more turns, so was happy to share the privilege.
Later in the day a Christian organisation rang up to ask if we were interested in a financial training program that helped people with budgeting and cash management. I stood (while on the phone I invariably stand and better still, walk), lost for words.
I tried to explain budgeting seemed a little irrelevant for people who run out of money on the second day of their government benefit cycle and live hand to mouth until the next pay day. No amount of budgeting advice would restore their fractured minds and substance abuse problems.
I imagined myself surrounded by people with wages and jobs and businesses and mortgages wisely learning how to manage their spending and saving and then contrasted that with the lives I had moments before been sharing. I congratulated my caller on the great work they were doing and felt forlornly a long way from middle class reality.
As we (Eternity) struggle to afford our sharing of life among the poor, my prayer is that more of the comfortable classes will find their way into the surprising world on their doorstep of people who have never had anything, to discover the love of God is so very real and powerful in the simplest of ways. And, by all means budget well, so you can give generously… PH (All names changed)