In my last post I talked about my normal week, and seemed to suggest an easy Friday. I never cease to be surprised at the variety of life I experience in my job. Last Friday I went on to visit St John Ambulance and Firestations. At both places I got into deep and meaningful conversations. I learned that one of the nicest of fire fighters, a man who trained volunteers and was always bubbly and positive was in a bad way in hospital with cancer.
We ran our drop-in centre and immediately when around 50 people came in I sensed tension in the air. There was a guy who takes playing pool too seriously, who is an ill tempered man who hates to be beaten. I noticed a bit of tension with one guy he was playing with. I was talking with another man when suddenly there was a brief scuffle. The bad tempered guy had swiped the other's phone onto the floor, where it fell to peices. The other shouldered him away from the phone, in the process he broke his pool cue and the other pool table was damaged. It was over in a few seconds with the more responsible of the two picking up his phone and moving away down stairs. We have mentally fragile people there, however, and this little scuffle made another man flare up. He had to be led away by his carer. - As I talked with various people to calm things down a bit, I could not help but think, "Why do we do this?" It is sometimes so hard and thankless. It was barely over when my cell phone rang and a man from my congregation told me his elderly mother had just died in a rest home and asked what he should do next? I climbed into my car and went off to spend time with him at the rest home. What a day? No boredom.
On Monday I was able to have a day off apart from a couple of phone calls and emails.
Today Tuesday began a bit earlier. First our phone rang just before 5 a.m. and we scrambled out of bed to answer it. We didn't make it to the phone before it stopped ringing. We lay in bed stewing on who amongst all the people we know, would want us at that time of the morning? The Dalai Lama was in town and the Interfaith Council had arranged for a bunch of religious leaders to meet him on the steps of the cathedral at 8:45 a.m. I was asked to go. So I got to shake hands with the Dalai Lama. We found out his town hall presentation was live streamed on line, so we showed it on the screen in the Church and a few people came in to watch. The town hall was sold out. I spent some time at St John and caught up on a man whose wife had been treated for a tumor of the brain. I was asked to sometime touch base with a lady who will lose her current position. I was planning to go into the hospital to see this lovely firefighter, but just before I left I checked my emails. I learned that the cancer was more aggressive than at first thought and he had died. I was so sad, he was a great guy! I went with a heavy heart to visit fire stations and listened to a lot of his colleagues express their sadness. Another firefighter told me of two men he knew who had committed suicide last week.
I came home with a sense of sadness overload. I seemed to have had to be a part of quite a lot of sadness lately. One good thing was that a man who helped instigate this Dalai Lama greeting today came to me to ask about my impending retirement. "Why?" he asked. "Cos I'm getting old!" I replied. He then went on to speak in glowing terms about our Church's openness to the community. "I don't think there is another Church in town like it." That was nice.