I was on his land and I was welcome
He allowed me to shave his beard.
On his part, it was an enormous act of faith.
On my part, it was a small act of grateful service.
My brother is an elder in his community.
He has seen and experienced the worst of humanity.
From an early age he has been abused and neglected, shunned and marginalized by white male Australians.
He has been harassed, incarcerated, separated from his children.
The way I look and the way I talk represents everything he sees as ‘white hot’ evil.
Yet, he asked me to shave his beard.
In his quiet, proud way he told me he was attending his ‘sister’s’ funeral.
He needed to look respectable.
He’d picked a suit and shirt from the Wayside Chapel Op Shop, and a shave and shower would send him on his way.
On the train back to his land, his family, his community.
Red earth, white rock, green gums, black feet.
I’ve known him for nearly two years and for the first year I was ignored.
My sister Mon told me I had to earn his trust and respect.
‘Remember, you are a guest on his land.’
It took time and patience.
And one day I got a nod, and a week or two later a small smile.
Then a G’day.
Bit by bit I showed my worth, by just being present.
Hands down, chin straight, eyes forward and open.
Then a fist pump.
And one day he spoke to me; called us ‘The Odd Couple’ and he giggled at his joke.
Guess who Felix was……..yep……Me!
And our gentle, slow friendship blossomed.
And then, this week, a request to shave his beard.
This man shuns the touch of men, yet he allowed me to kneel and carefully shave his face clean.
It was the purest act of love.
Like holding my newly born sons, or my wife’s hand in front of Pastor Graham Long.
My hands shook and then I took a deep breath and I looked into his dark, charcoal eyes and he smiled.
And all was well.
I was so close I could see his skin.
Pores and wrinkles and fresh bruises.
I could see the fine hairs around his nose and brow.
I could see the nobility and heritage in the line of his jaw.
I could also sense the trauma, the hurt and the loss, and a deep sadness.
Yet, shining through all this was a proud, humble man.
Black man, golden heart.
I was on his land and I was welcome.
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