I would like to share with you my own personal witness of how Jesus came back into my life and a life that is definitely worth living.
I made a wrong choice in my life and went from being in a professional job with recognition to struggling with a shop business (in at the deep end as they say!!!), on my own, due to my own stubbornness and trust in someone’s abilities that was a bit misplaced. He found himself out of his depth. My stubbornness was my own fault.
The year was 2008, and a mixture of tram works in Leith, Edinburgh and social conditions in the economy brought me to rock bottom. I had truly reached a point where I did not know which way to turn.
A friend John Garner who was volunteering in the shop with me had taken a day off to spend some time at the Leith Festival. When he came back to the shop later on in the day he had a very pleased flush to his face. I remember that day was a bit like today, warm sunshine, everyone except me with happy smiles on their faces enjoying the summer weather.
Stammering a bit to get his words out John let me know he had met an artist at the gala day who he had persuaded to come to the shop with her artwork, perhaps I could help her by exhibiting and selling some for her. Barely half an hour later in walked Olwen Marina Carrier with her artwork. A better friend and mentor you could not find!!!
All Marina had to say to me, to change my whole life, was Sandra God is trying to bless you. The emotion I felt at that point is totally indescribable, a mixture of relief, a realisation of direction, a feeling of I am not alone, I have been forgiven, thankfulness, I burst into tears. The weight of guilt I had been holding on to washed away in an instant.
I did display her beautiful oil paintings of Leith, one was even sent to the Whitehouse in November 2008 as a gift to President Obama (Of course I have absolutely no idea whether he got it or not). That was not the end though, just the beginning, artist after artist, walked in the shop and left work with me Karen O’Neill, Glen, Garry Miller, Sadie Beauchamp, Anjila Wilson, the very troubled Grant Munro, Ian Shoemaker, Jennifer Davies (USA), Heather, Christopher Black, Geraldine, Emma, Hamid (Iran), Judy, Polina (Iceland), Conchi and Roberto (Spain) (not all of them are mentioned here), with their crafts Neena Kainthola (India), Phurba Sherpa (Tibet) Alahaddin (Egypt), Frances (Ireland but lives in Edinburgh),William Ofori Atta and Eric Ricson Agyare (Ghana), Again not all, philosophers, activists and writers, Paul Scribbler Charles, Gordon Reid, Karen Toscani, Alex Dunedin, Dominic, politicians, Nick Gardiner, Angela Blacklock, Robb Mun, Mark Lazarowicz, Gordon Munro and our own Deirdre Brock. Musicians, Liza Day, George Browne, David Roberts (Older Not Wiser), Nathalie Docherty Gibson and many more. As it became more beautiful and word spread it brought more people, this little shop in Leith became a melting pot and a haven for all in the local area including the homeless who needed to relax for a bit, people with mental and physical issues, support workers, local community organisations, people from every different culture you can imagine. a real microcosm of humanity. Leith Circle came into being naturally as a community hub between 2008 and Christmas 2011. I was not blessed with money but a much more important abundance of friends, support, life. It did change my life but that seed spread out over Edinburgh and has started taking hold in the most unlikely of places. The most important result being the community support network we have created. I have a group of friends that do not just support each other but take that support out into the community in practical ways for example:
- Karen Toscani went on to work with Leith Festival for a year as manager and we turned the tide financially for the festival from negative to positive. Karen now works with Harmeny Agency as a support worker and a theatrical group called ActivInquiry (a political forum theatre group, theatre that gives individuals a voice). ActiveInquiry has done theatre workshops with groups at community level and employs both trained actors and people from disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. It is part of a community theatre network in Edinburgh that has forwarded the causes of social justice, fairness and equality throughout Edinburgh and beyond. ActiveInquiry has performed in many community settings even taking their theatre to the Scottish Parliament and in Europe to Croatia.
- Garry Miller came into the shop as an artist who was painting to keep himself occupied, providing paintings of meaning to make people think about the world around them. Garry Miller is a recovering alcoholic and now does community based artwork. He takes part in different projects in the Leith area, he writes for the Bethany Bugle and organises exhibitions of artwork. He also works with the Citadel Arts Project, an inter-generational art group.
- Robert Harkess, came into the shop as a customer for some incense and has been a friend ever since. Although a Christian after the death of his mother and father for whom he was the main carer he felt at a loss. His family are not close and he did not have anyone else to turn to. He too helps out in the community and it was he and I who came up with the words community support network. He finds his saving in helping others every day of his life whether it is my own partner or other friends who do not have such an easy time staying clean. He has undertaken first aid training, knows how to use a defibrilator and spends a lot of time picking people up off the street and getting them to where they can get proper help.
- My own partner Uli Lauxen fell to rock bottom in 2007 after his wife died. By the time we became friends through the shop he was so injured mentally both by the alcohol and having to live on the streets that it was very hard to talk to him. We have known each other since 2009 and he has turned his life around. He too is happiest and strongest when he is helping others. It must be the military training really for both Uli and Robert they both have an inner intuition that allows them to see what a person is really saying and react in the right way. I really don’t know how many people have been brought up a step by these two soldiers of God.
There are many more individuals involved in our informal network and the tree grows day by day and week by week from a strong centre outwards tied with bonds of love and friendship that will not be broken no matter what.
I have been so blessed by God and live such a rich rewarding life that I can do nothing other, in fact I have no other wish than to try and pass these blessings on and help as many as I can to reach the safety and love of God.
I really just wanted to show that in the midst of despair there is still a light in the darkness and it shines all the brighter when life is at its darkest.
Thank you God for this life you have brought me to.