Saturday, August 27, 2016



I had dinner in the YMCA dining room with Sarah. A mature black woman from Joburg South Africa. Was joined a little later by Della also mature and from the same city. They both are nurses, working over here to raise money for their families back home. Sarah had so much depth. Even our first chat was of depth and I recognized a deep person as we chatted freely. There was a freshness behind the hardworking face. She wants to save to be able to afford a business start up on her return. Not nursing as I would have suspected, but housing. She wants to get into housing when she returns. Before she moved away to work her permanent night shift at the local hospital - we shared a lot.

Sarah was talking about Joburg and the community she lived in. I told her about the YMCA there and she knew of it in two places. She had also heard of Caesar Molabatsi who was the President of the South African YMCA, but now has been elected as President of the World Alliance of YMCA's. A hot preacher that he is. We had him often at Greenbelt during the dark days of apartheid. We talked about Hillbrow, the place Mickaela O'Sullivan worked when she was third year Trainee here. How she worked at the YMCA with homeless children in that community. Sarah said she would never go there. It is too rough she explained. Yet the YMCA was there doing it. Mickaela was there doing it. The need is there and someones got to do it!

Was reflecting this morning as I woke before the bell. These early morning thoughts of all things YMCA. They swirl in and out of the subconscious mind as I pull the duvet over me to keep away the coldness of early morning.I was thinking how she knew Felix, a young black lad in the hostel who comes from Canning Town, in East London, my old rough patch. I was there 10 years before I came to Romford. He came from Zimbabwe with his parents when he was 14. We had talked about the shock it was to shift cultures at such an impressive age. He had recently returned to his native land for the first time and was roughed up by the locals because he was different. Different accent and dress. Not streetwise, certainly in that street. Yet his East London street is one of the toughest in London town.

Felix is named after his Grandad and wants to study business and finance. His aspirations are to follow his parents in their business in Canning Town. It is an African Night Club. It was news to me about such a place, but I have been away from the patch for nearly 18 years!

Was reflecting that the likes of Sarah have a wonderful influence on Felix and others without trying. Mother figures who relate to them as adults. Mature people who have a life experience to match theirs. See how deep it is? 'Community' working together to bring wholeness, a true YMCA mission objective. We are striving to meet the needs of individuals, but the experience of 'community' is touching the lives of individuals through community.

I was thinking how good it is to have a diversity of cultures. Mr Singh who joined us for dinner with all his world travels and cultural experience. The learning for us as we sit in the YMCA Dining Room. As the world gets smaller and bombs are placed at other people's feet because they are different. This world is beautiful but not if you have a bomb go off in your night club. Not if you are stabbed because your difference is the colour of your skin. Not if you believe in God who has a different name and loves only 'me and mine' The 'me' needs to become 'we' world-wide.

So my dinner has given way to a sleepless a.m., but has taken me a step, another, to human development. Community. Cultural awareness. Diversity. Faith. Communication and the joy of looking into a persons face and seeing their soul. So generous. So much love in there. So much.

Pip Wilson, 2001.