Her name is Mandy. She is tiny and skinny. Her face is lined and drawn from, what to me looks like taking a lot of Ice. She always looks worried yet the cheeky cap perched on the top of her head tells a different story. She hardly comes up to my shoulders and I notice a long scar including stitch marks on the inside of her wrist.
I really first met her yesterday as I was trying to convince Thomas to take his medication. Thomas is difficult and one of those borderline people always getting into trouble with the police. I gotta say I love Thomas because I can see behind all the mass of confusion, bluster, drugtaking and aggression lurks a very loving heart.
His behaviour can be deplorable and I will stop him short by saying: “I can see your heart Thomas”. I wrote a reference for him when he last went to court saying what a good soul he had. I often hear him telling people that.
Anyway yesterday Thomas was in a bad way and needed to get his medication from the chemist. Of course he had no money so I walked with him to pay the chemist. It was on this walk I met Mandy. Mandy was with him and was trying to convince him to take his medication. Thomas was just behaving like a jerk. I said “I can see your heart Thomas” to which Mandy said “there you are Bill is saying exactly what I say to you all the time”. Mandy saw through all his bluster and trauma too.
In an instant each of us realised we saw the same thing in Thomas and that made us allies.
Together with our arms around him we marched him down to the chemist and I paid for his medication.
Leaving them I then went on my way.
This morning I was walking up to our centre and I heard a voice behind me. I thought it said my name but I wasn’t sure and so kept moving on. But then Mandy caught up with me and we talked.
“How did Thomas go after he took his medication?” I asked. She said it calmed him down and pretty soon things were okay. I said I was glad about that.
She then said to me: “Your place does so much good up there; so much good. And you, I can tell you understand me, Bill. You somehow know who I am and what I’ve been through. I’ve been coming here for quite a while and been watching you. I know what a good man you are”.
I really didn’t know what to say because it was so transparently honest and real it sucked all the air out of my lungs. So I reached out and held her in one of those hugs which goes on forever and warmth and comfort and forgiveness and love flowed between her and me in an endless embrace. I could feel the incredible thinness and vulnerability of her body against mine.
She said “I say my prayers every day and I talk to God every day and He’s been guiding my life every day. I know there’s hope. People want to tell me what to believe – but I know. They want to change my thinking – but I know”.
Here I was standing on the footpath near the gutter on the side of the road, hearing about the God I believed in from one of His true struggling followers.
It’s all about love, transparency, compassion, forgiveness. It’s about vulnerability; it’s about surviving the best way you can but realising there’s a wider reality which is loving compassion.
It was obvious Mandy, like me knew she had fallen many, many times, often making bad choices and suffering the consequences.
But deep deep down Mandy has not given up. As she was talking to me I felt the words were coming directly from Jesus and I could see she was closer to Him than so many who profess his name.
Like Ted Noffs used to say; “You find God in the Hells of the world”. But few, so few of us want to go there.