In my other life I work as a community development coordinator with Queenscliff Uniting Church. It’s a wonderfully progressive church with a passion for the arts and a devoted team of volunteers that give endlessly of their time to try and build community and generally make the world a better place. I feel very privileged to be part of the team.
Recently we had our monthly Messy Church gathering – a morning devoted to food and fun for young kids and their families. The reality, Queenscliff being Queenscliff, is that we have our band of regular ‘oldies’ and a few families who are beginning to join us once a month. Last month our theme was From Big Things Little Things Grow.
Sandra, our resident librarian, read A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham.
It was a beautiful reading but what had me in awe was the number of levels this story worked on. The kids were mesmerized but the adults were right there with them, getting in-jokes like the couple boring the pants off people showing their holiday slides and the girl Stella’s adoption of her own ‘regulations’.
That week a sad thing happened. One of our friends at The Lodge – a ‘retirement’ home in Queenscliff for people who have otherwise fallen through the cracks of our society – died. Daniel was 50. He was obese and suffered from a number of health problems but he was one of us. He had been to our dinners, gone on the weekly bus trips – always sitting up the front as navigator – and was part of our community.
Daniel was found dead in his room on Wednesday morning and Josh – a 20-something resident of The Lodge – called in to tell me and ask if we might have some sort of special service at our weekly dinner that night.
And so, Sandra read A Bus Called Heaven again. This time it took on a different resonance. We thought about the sparrows and the snails – the things that society would rather not bother with – that Stella protects. We saw the coming together of all the different people on the bus. Our minister, Kerrie, encouraged us to think about the book and which parts spoke most to us – and then we shared those reflections.
I couldn’t help but wish that Bob Graham was a fly on the wall to see all this unfold. It was a small gathering of about 20 people and as we reflected on this seemingly simple picture book, we also remembered Daniel. I wonder if Daniel’s life might have been different if he had someone like Stella in it.