Stories and sketches
A hard-to-define book but one that is a gem, full of lyrical, heartfelt accounts of Neil's experiences of working with the homeless, the aged, the mentally ill, the lost. The stories can be used in personal meditation, group reflection and church worship, just as some of them have been in services in Iona Abbey. You can listen to him reading four of the stories if you follow the link below to our website.
For more information, to see sample pages and to listen to the author reading some of the stories
Or read some extracts from the Introduction, below:
When I left university I had no idea what to do with my life … For about fifteen years I worked as nurse’s aide, as a companion aide, as a ‘counsellor’ in post-psychiatric ‘rest’ homes, and as a worker in shelters for homeless men.
I think I chose to be around people who were ‘broken’ because I felt broken myself … One thing I quickly discovered was that many of the people who are labelled as ‘disabled’ have great gifts and wisdom …
I did this work because I wanted, in my small way, to help build a world where people mattered – the Kingdom. I saw the world – and still see the world – as a place where you don’t matter unless you have money and property. Capitalism is a system that throws not only things but people away. In capitalism, if you don’t ‘work’, if you are ‘faulty’, you are thrown on the garbage heap. In one post-psychiatric rest home I volunteered in, three people shared each tiny room. Recreation was bingo in a square, low-ceilinged basement: it felt like they were stuffing us all into a box … Conditions were filthy all over: mice lived in bathtubs and disappeared down hairy drains; disturbed people were straitjacketed with heavy drugs. … I don’t want to romanticise people, but so many of the folk I met in my work, so many of the discarded people, were to me the most prophetic and Christ-like. It was a privilege to know them.
I wanted to live in a world where heart matters, not money. Where richness is measured in stories. Where people are valued for their life experience. That was naive, I guess. … Who knows where it will end? Maybe we’ll all be thrown into a basement somewhere. All of us poetic, useless ones. Well, I won’t go without a fight …
I hope you like these stories. Human beings are infinite. We rarely get close to the core of even people we think we know well – partners, family, friends. We understand each other in glimpses; ourselves in glimpses. People are so complex and mysterious and so frustratingly wonderful … The best we can do is help one another. Have patience. Not expect too much, or anything. Not get disillusioned. That’s hard to do …
Go to main book description page