Is Anyone Listening?

A couple of winters ago I got a call from someone saying Pete was desperately down and needed some additional warm things. It was well below zero and the snow was falling onto packed ice.

I put the snow chains on the van and headed into the city as quick as I could and true to form I found Pete, huddled up peering out of his coat declaring that he was perfectly ok and had what he needed wondering what all the fuss was about.


(Photo courtesy of Lee Aspland)

Pete was as complex as he was introverted, as intelligent as he was sober and as stubborn as he was opinionated.

His stubborn refusal to engage with ‘the system’ infuriated me, and many others, only taking help if he believed it was truly benevolent, which to our community’s credit was often in abundance. If however, he thought anyone was receiving a salary for ‘helping the homeless’, they didn’t meet the criteria to be in his circle of support, despite their efforts and care.

To get close to Pete was almost impossible. You had to earn that right and it wasn’t anything to do with what you might offer of material gain or daily bread. There were no brief meaningful chats with Pete. You needed an hour at least before you even started.

A lyrical journey of sorting his predicament out, the struggles of a changing city around him, the ecstasy of watching Mo Farah win gold on ‘his’ wide screen tv in the square, reeling off Beach Boys and Mamas and Papas songs, the memories of being fit enough to play table tennis, the hypocrisy of government, society and the church and all the books he wants to store, were all fair game, for any that were invited into the intimacy of a private audience with Pete.

What Pete wrestled with was the same as most of us, the reality that life is often about loss. The loss of innocence, of opportunity come and gone, of loved ones unexpectedly departing and the loss of love thought won.

People respond and react in many different ways, for Pete, he chose to try and lose Brian Burford in search of only he knew what and why. But for all the muddle and the riddles, he carried something in his soul, a crusade and mission to make a point maybe. He was not a statistic, or even a legend, he hated that thought, but he wanted to say ‘something’ on his terms and he wanted ‘someone’ to listen.

On occasion Pete would say, “if I ever give this up, it won’t be in the winter, it will be on a warm summers day”, as if there could have been some far off possibility that it could happen and he was in control of it.

We ‘could’ build a monument of bronze 100 feet high, or we could pause, we could watch, we could learn to listen. If we want to build a monument in memory of Pete, may it be one that taps into the core of our soul that compels us to love without measure or want of any reward, to leave our prejudice behind, to live simply and gather only what we need. May it be a monument of substance in the life of our community that levels the ground and doesn’t place a persons worth on what we see with our eyes, but in the knowledge that we are all wonderfully made and indeed all very fragile.

Enjoy the dance dear friend, the embrace, the banquet and the mansion. See you later, I’ll be the one stood outside in the rain hoping you’ll let me in.

Here’s some Bob Dylan to close with, the lyric somehow seems appropriate.

Sean

‘Pete’s’ funeral took place on 25 February 2015. His ashes were placed on the grave of his mother, his step father and his younger brother. Robin Turner wrote a thoughtful piece in the Western Mail which you can find here.

Chimes Of Freedom – Bob Dylan

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music

John Smith Film Update

Work is due to begin again on the ‘Smithy’ film project heading towards the proposed release date of 1 July 2015. John Smith has had an important role in shaping many aspects of our ministry, this independent film is a unique opportunity to capture not just a man’s influential life, but also document one of the most significant voices on mission and what it means to truly follow Jesus.


To make the best possible job of production and distribution options, opportunity to donate remains open until 31 Jan to raise the remaining funds.

If you would like to support the ‘Smithy’ film, please go to the fundraising campaign at:
http://www.parham-media.com

For the latest news on the ‘Smithy’ production, go to: https://www.facebook.com/SomethingInEveryHue

Thanks for your interest and support.