Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

So it’s come to this - my last full day in New Zealand.

I passed Giles the tramp begging on Queen Street again. In the past I’ve made him sandwiches, so today was my last chance to feed him.

I headed into the youth hostel that I had lived in for nine months, to fetch some food off the Free Food Shelf for him.

There was none. God hadn’t provided. I got myself a glass of water instead. Have faith, I kept telling myself.

Then Leni came up to me. She had a whole bag full of food that someone had left behind, and she asked me if I wanted it. What was in there? Porridge! Milk! This was perfect. I mixed it up in a bowl, found there was exactly the perfect amount of milk, heated it up, added some sugar, put in a spoon and headed back out to Giles with it.

He didn’t want it.

Wondering if he had been a cat in a previous life, I carefully replaced the bowl of untouched porridge in my bag, and headed down towards The Warehouse, where I had some souvenirs to get.

In my mind, I wasn’t sure if God wanted me to walk in this direction. The other tramps, I knew, hung out back the other way, in Aotea Square. But if God was really in control, and if I really didn’t have to do anything, then surely they would be on my way to The Warehouse.(The Warehouse)(where everyone gets a bargain)(and a money-back guarantee)

Half-way down Queen Street, and with the porridge getting cold in my bag, I gave up on this and turned around to head back past Giles towards Aotea Square, scanning the whole street on the way for vagrants.


I was on the final stretch, under the covered walkway by the Post Office, when we made eye-contact.

I don’t recall if I offered him the porridge first, or whether he asked me for something, but this guy didn’t want the porridge either. What he wanted was a couple of burgers.

Great - another cat.

Again I found myself reluctant to use any actual money to help the guy, but the parable of the Good Samaritan really doesn’t leave much room. I offered to buy him the burgers, so back to Wendy’s we went.

“Are you sure you don’t want any of the other burgers?” I gently prompted, not unreasonably since he was asking me for the cheapest one.

He was definite though. He knew what he wanted. The little 2-dollar burger that comes with a second one free. No problem.

As we queued-up, I was bugged that he seemed a little familiar. He was very polite and friendly. He told me that he played the harmonica to earn money, but that every time he found one, someone stole it from him. I asked for his name. “Rex.”

“You are Rex!” I gasped, suddenly feeling a flashback coming on…

As we got the burgers, I just marvelled at what an amazing transformation had taken place in this man. Six months ago he’d been an angry swearing suicidal alcoholic. Now he was someone who I genuinely wanted to spend some time chatting to. “People tell me I have very kind eyes,” he said, and he did. What on Earth had God done for this man this year to transform his character?

“I’m schizophrenic,” he answered.

I wondered, surely no-one could be that schizophrenic.

In anticipation of leaving NZ, lately I’ve been photographing everyone I know, and Rex was no exception, happily posing outside Wendy’s. I wondered a bit about my motivation here. I was thinking “I’ll post this on my blog,” but wound up wondering whether this was pure egotism on my part. “Look at me – I feed tramps.” It felt a bit like this photo was some sort of trophy, and he wasn’t smiling that much, so as my finger depressed the shutter, I mentally decided not to post it. Then, as soon as the flash had gone off, Rex broke into a massive grin.

Call me mad, but in Matthew we’re told that whenever we feed the hungry we’re feeding Jesus, (you know the quote) and on this, the final day of my Kiwi odyssey, I really felt as though I actually had.

I wanted to help this guy out, so before leaving I looked him straight in his kind eyes and said “You will get another harmonica.”

Back in Aotea Square, I was alone. Again.

How many times in the last year had I sat here now, praying to God, angrily, determinedly, reading the Bible out loud?

There was the white clock tower, the “Sky City Metro” sign still lighting-up in sequence…

…the statue of Steve Allen (he looks like Steve Allen to me)…

…and that abstract Mountain Fountain thing.

And the memories. Walking along the tops of the benches when I was first here in March last year...

... the football match, the fire-jugglers, the time I’d decided to walk the circumference three times reading some psalms out loud, at which the most hideous screaming-match had broken-out between two groups of tramps.

And there’s that building that looks like the last thing Number 6 sees before he passes-out in the opening credits of The Prisoner. Oh yes, The Prisoner - I was writing a magazine article about that when I first came here.

Now it was all empty, like Maplins in the last episode of Hi-De-Hi, and I was still sitting there with a cold bowl of uneaten porridge that no-one wanted, not even the tramps.

There was only one thing left to do.

It went against everything I believed in, but I ate the porridge.

Well actually I ate about a third of it, before deciding that it was disgusting, and tipping the rest of it away. Blasted soy-milk, no-one’s that desperate.

I walked back under the arch, left Aotea Square for the final time and headed back to the hostel to return their utensils.

It had all meant something, but I had absolutely no idea what.


10 comment(s):

At 12:41 pm, Blogger BJ said...

Another epic. Glad the blogging continues...

Where are you?

At 12:39 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Spiritually - on my journey with Christ.
Philosophically - at work.

What did you expect - a simple answer?!

At 9:09 pm, Blogger BJ said...

I was thinking...


At 11:57 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Near the main road!

At 8:58 pm, Blogger BJ said...

The one with the tree?

At 9:01 pm, Blogger BJ said...

The one with the tree?

At 2:48 am, Blogger KlownKrusty said...

For goodness sake, will you answer the man?!?? Is it the one with the tree, already?! Eurgh!

At 2:29 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...


Full marks - I am in fact just near One Tree Hill. Well done.



At 8:52 pm, Blogger BJ said...

Merry Christmas Steve - hope its a good one!

At 2:54 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Thank you Brett, messy Christmas.


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