The Melbourne Cup – the race that stops the Australian Nation is the excuse one for the biggest parties of the year. Over 500,000 people will visit the Flemington Racecourse that week. Battling their way through heavy traffic, training it, arriving by Chopper, or sailing glamorously up the nearby Maribyrnong River.
Some of them make their way with people like me… with a limousine. They get picked up at their home and their party of people sometimes 10 or 12 make their way to the track in luxury party mode.
I had been to the track once already this cup day and was busy cleaning out the car getting it ready for the next group of clients. So that they could feel really special when they stepped out in front of the crowd at Flemington. I’ve done this on and off for many years, so I know the drill and how to get people in and out of the track in a hurry. I’d been up since 7 am and with my next pick up in thirty minutes at 11 am I was busting to use the bathroom. Melbourne cup is a public holiday in the state I live in so no one is open. And here I was in downtown Melbourne looking for a loo… there was none in sight.. .no public… no shops open … nothing!! You know what the pressure is like. I was staring pain in the face. If I didn’t go before I picked up the next guests I wouldn’t get a chance to go for a least 2 hours. That’s something I that certainly didn’t want to face… that’s a whole lot of pain and health-wise not a very wise idea either.
But then I spotted it a glimmer of hope in the distance. An open door – the Melbourne City Mission. A Christian organisation designed to help those in need. And I felt very needy indeed.
So off I raced the 100 metres down the road with relief in sight. Of course, you know what that means. The minute your brain tells your bladder there is relief in sight somehow the need to go becomes almost more intense.
I rushed up the front steps, there was a couple of staff talking near the entrance, and as I put my hand on the big glass door to go into the reception area – a voice called out. “You can’t go in there what do you want?” a little taken aback I said, “ I was hoping to use your bathroom here, I’m a limo driver my cars just up the road I’m pretty desperate can you help?”
“No, you can’t use our toilets was their reply.” I tried to point out there where no options as it was a public holiday etc etc. Still no luck – “you find them around the corner, there are a couple of cafés there.” Was all the help I could get. Again I tried “but it’s a public holiday” still no luck “they are always open” was the only answer.
I rounded the corner and my doubts were re-enforced… No open cafes. None at all… then there was a glimmer of hope. At the end of the street there was a shop owner just closing up, obviously had come there to drop something off for some reason. So I sprinted up to them only to be turned away again.
Then my mind did remember…something. I had passed an open door.. what as it.. ahh… yes… The Top of the Town.. a brothel, one of Melbourne’s somewhat iconic locations. I had nothing to lose and I was desperate, so off I went. After they gave me the quick once over to make sure I was legit. Not a problem. And 5 minutes later I was a much happy a man and after I thank them for their kindness. Headed off to my next job.
Walking back to my car I couldn’t help but remember the 2000-year-old story of the Good Samaritan. Where the founder of the Christian faith, Jesus was asked “who is my Neighbour?” and told the following story.
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him and beat him up, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said, “Take care of him, and if you spend any more I will look after you when I return.”
Jesus then asks his questioner, “Now which of these three, do you think, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He that shewed mercy on him.” Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Now I have kept the story close to the King James Version of the bible as I a reminder that the principle behind the story is also a matter of faith and belief for the Christian Church. It is also important to remember that the Samaritans at the time were not a particularly loved group of people by the Hebrew establishment, a bit like the Palestinians of today. So the point being made here was even greater.
So you can imagine my feelings about the City Mission on that day. Here I was in need, and the very people who The City Mission is trying to save people from, are the only people who cared enough to help me.
The irony couldn’t escape me.
A sad indictment on an organisation whose purpose in biblical terms “is to seek and to save that which is lost”.
Now I’m not here to bash The City Mission, who do very fine work, in often very difficult circumstances. And I’m sure will have many thousands of families and individuals who will stand to their defence. Their lives have been turned around. And the world is more often than not, a better place because of organisations like them.
My point here is to remind us all that we are all flawed human beings and often apply rules and laws that we have set up to govern our lives and forget the underlying principles that we hold dear.
How often to do we take the time to step back and ask ourselves the questions “what’s really going on here?”