Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ripples in the Street

The street outside my church is home to a community of street people.

Miela, her sister, her mother, Bennie and Prevan all live behind the flower sellers against the Seven Eleven wall. They store their things in a trolley across the road from my office. And each evening they pull out the double bed mattress and make a fire in a tin can to cook a can of baked beans, or some chicken off cuts. And their days are committed to gathering money to buy the alcohol that got them onto the street in the first place.

Peter looks after cars on the corner across from the bank. He is a qualified machine fitter, but has allowed alcohol to deprive him of this work, so now works as a car-guard. He comes to the 9:30 service on a Sunday with Beverley his girlfriend. Beverley has a job, and collects Peter at 5 each evening to take him home - before the allure of the pub across the road get too much for him.

Barry sits in the main road outside the print shop. He makes leather key rings and other trinkets which he displays on a plastic milk carton. He also gets occasional work inside the print shop when they are under pressure, where he collates paper, or cleans machines.

Dave was with me in the SA Airforce in 1976. He is qualified to work on aircraft, but too many evenings spent in an Airforce pub has robbed him of that ability. He resigned with the rank of a Sergeant-Major, and has spent his pension payout. Now he sits on the corner watching Peter watch cars, and sometimes paints aircraft on squares of hardboard.

And Joe. Right now Joe guards our church property at night...mostly with great diligence and responsibility. He worked with Peter on Rustenburg Platinum Mine, and they gravitated to Cape Town together. And Like Peter, he has alcoholic lapses.

But right now the street is not well. Because Patricia has arrived. She used to live in a caravan behind the Seven-Eleven, until it caught alight. Most street people think that the owner of the block of flats had a hand in this, as he had wanted the caravan moved. Patricia has taken up residence next to Barry. The complicating factor is that she has recently inherited money: sufficient to invest, with enough interest to buy a bottle of whiskey per day. She denies that she is in need of help: “I can stop drinking anytime I want to”.

And that one bottle on the street is like a stone dropped into a still pond.

Because Barry cannot ignore the bottle on the pavement between them. And neither can Peter pretend that there is not this bottle just around the corner. And Beverly seems to have given up fetching Peter at 5 and instead joins him on the block. And Joe sees the bottle too. And Clive, a long-gone resident boyfriend of Miela, has reappeared on the corner.

And Peter is no longer sober. And Dave is far too friendly. And Beverley had a papsak under her arm yesterday. And long-gone street resident, Clive, has made Benny jealous that he will take Miela away from him. And Joe has locked himself into our property: he has cleaned our toilets, and painted walls, and gardened in an attempt not to be distracted by Patricia’s bottle.

Pray for our streets.


Gus said...

Thank you for this.

I appreciate your way of listening to the people in your community.

I also appreciate the way you have written their lives into our consciousness.

Anonymous said...

HI Pete

I will pray for you and your street. May the Lord work some Miracle there.HIS love will shine through. Be strong.