Thursday, 16 February 2017

When Lawyers Wash your Clothes


"Get rid of that floating pile of spit. That's disgusting!" He spat his own words out. The pool attendant simply nodded his head and fetched a pole to remove the offending puddle. It was the first time in Manila that I had seen an obvious display of class difference. But there it was. One man felt he had the right to order another man around.

Years ago when I lived on a mission ship, we were assigned jobs to keep the ship life running smoothly. My job was to wash clothes and clean toilets. Fair enough really. I had taken a year out of my studies in Psychology to join the crew and I wasn't really qualified to do anything in particular. One of my fellow cleaner/washer mates, however, had taken time out of her established career as a lawyer to work with this crew. And I did not hear her complain once.

It was interesting to watch new people join the ship and look at us in a particular way...until they had a chance to spend a day in our department, which would happen from time to time. Their level of gratitude and respect would always grow after that. It's human nature, it seems, for us to assign each other to different classes, sometimes just from the label on our t-shirt.

I've never forgotten what it felt like to be 'classed' and often as I bump into people in service roles I make a point to say thank-you. In those words I hope they will also hear "You and I are equal and I don't take it for granted that you are working so hard to make life a little nicer for me." And to the man in the pool that day, in the nicest possible way I hope you will have a chance to walk in someone else's shoes and maybe one day you too will say thank-you.

To the boy who tags our bridge...


I went for a run yesterday and saw a young boy fleeing after adding graffiti to our local bridge. I've seen his artistry quite a few times over the past couple of years and it always moves me. Not what he writes or how he writes it but the fact that he does.

I always wonder what drives him to commit the crime of tagging. Is it the rush of excitement about doing something without getting caught (tagging during the daytime)? Is it a sense of ownership and identity surrounding the placement of his tag (always tagging our local bridge)? Perhaps there are 'friends' out there that he is driven to impress. I read an article from New Zealand about the motivations behind graffiti artists and it reflected similar assumptions.

Whatever is going through his mind I wish I could let him know that my heart breaks for him. I wish he could know that he doesn't need to fight his inner battles alone and that there are answers to his questions. And I look around and wonder who else in my neighbourhood is carrying these questions. How would I know? If they spoke out, would I be ready to respond with love?

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Twirling Girl

You couldn't tell from her smile
Couldn't see it in her twirl
But this tiny little child
Carried the weight of the world

I'll never forget the little twirling girl. She came to the centre everyday and found her place of identity, her taste of joy. When she picked up her hoop and began spinning, she wouldn't stop. On and on the hoop would twirl until some one called for her attention elsewhere.

We arrived home from the Philippines 4 days ago and that image has been playing on my mind. Poverty doesn't smack us in the face here as much in Australia but trauma and distress linger under the surface in all kinds of places. I used to work for the Salvation Army helping troubled people with their day to day lives. Sometimes people would take our offers of a place to live and sometimes the streets felt more familiar to them, safer somehow. I learnt that everyone had a story and never to assume a cause or solution to poverty.

The twirling girl had a 'home' - it was a covered space not even large enough to fit the sleeping family at night. She would sleep on the footpath beside her step-dad. He had issues with his temper. I didn't ask what other issues he had. I've heard so many stories over the past few months in Manila and I could feel overwhelmed if I dwelt on them too much. But I've decided that when I fall back into life in the developed world, I don't want to look at people without wondering about their story, without giving them a chance to reveal more than just their smile if they'll offer it. And I don't ever want to forget the twirling girl.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

My Pasalubong

I took the opportunity to sit in one of Ken's classes last week. I was reminded that a lot of these students have travelled a long way, often from very poor areas, sometimes without their family's support, to become campus missionaries. Giving up well paying careers and relying on the support of those who catch their vision, they have come to BGC Manila for three months to prepare themselves for the mission ahead. These young people are laying down their lives to carry a message of hope and life to the next generation and they are already working hard to make sure they do it well.

16 years ago, I lived on a missionary ship that docked in Manila for a month. I had been playing with the homeless children that lived in the Port area when a young lady came up to me. She clearly had trouble walking but said she had travelled 3 hours to come and visit our ship. Long before the days of Uber, her trip would have involved multiple Tricycles and Jeepneys. She'd met missionaries from this ship in the past and knew it would be worth the trip. I invited her on board to shower, have a meal and take some blankets back to where she was sleeping in the Port area. Yes, she'd been sleeping along the pier.

What is it in the Filipino spirit that propels them to give up not just comforts but necessities to follow what they believe God has laid on their hearts?? If we could pack that into our case and take it home to Australia as Pasalubong (souveniers) imagine what our nation would look like...