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Olive — One of God's Voices of Love in London
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…By Gil Clelland - Sanctuary London

"I'll have the soup...and some bread...do you have bread?" Olive asked politely of the waitress. Olive had just regained her breath and was looking forward to a nice lunch to celebrate her eightieth birthday. So far, the day had been a rush. An hour before this meal together, I was sitting in another restaurant waiting for Olive to show up. After half an hour of waiting, I got worried and called her home. "I drove around but couldn't find the restaurant...so sorry...my blood pressure is high...I can't drive any more today..." she spoke almost breathlessly to me on the phone. We drove over to her apartment complex to get her. Olive waited with a small crowd of fellow residents all wondering who would be picking up one of their friends. They watched intently as I escorted Olive to my car. Her breathing had slowed down a little but it was not until we had been sitting in this second restaurant that she was calm enough to order her meal.

We each enjoyed our soup that afternoon. I wanted to take Olive out for lunch. Not only was she celebrating a milestone in her life, Olive is my friend. I know it's not been an easy life for her. From the details she has shared of her life, she has known more than her share of abuse and pain. To this day, she has a tough time trusting that love comes from the right place. One afternoon during a card game at our drop-in, Olive and I were playfully exchanging our latest joke for each other. She then asked, "So, do you have anything else?" I pulled out my wallet and gave her a Tim's card that was just given to me that morning to share with people in our community. "I'm not sure how much is on there, but you can have it." She hesitatingly drew it from my hand as I proffered it. The next week, she came in tears to me. "You gave me a gift...a real gift. It wasn't a joke...it was a gift...I don't normally get gifts." She explained that many people like to tease her with "gifts" that turn out with Olive as the butt of a joke. This small gift of a Tim's card really meant something to her. Yet, in spite of her life of pain, Olive is one who knows how to love others. She spends a lot of her time at My Sister's Place (a safe drop-in for all women). Olive there finds people who need a hug, a firm word, a song, or her latest joke. Weekly, she shows up at our drop-ins to just hang out, write stories, tickle the ivories with an old gospel song, and reminisce about a time that comes only in sparse memories. Through her soup this afternoon she shared her love for each of the girls. As I tried to explain my frustrations with one of our mutual friends, Olive replied, "Oh Lisa, she is such a dear. Her mom used to beat her. She is a survivor. I just love that girl." I gained a new perspective and saw Lisa once again through Olive's eyes...through God's eyes. An ordained minister, Olive prefers to spend her time among those of us who struggle daily — with poverty, with abuse, with neglect. She is the voice of love to us.

"I don't like that Picasso," she declared as a painting in the restaurant catches her eye. "He paints in triangles. I prefer things that are real...but not so good that it's fake...but full of pain and goodness....like life." I suggested that the blues are that way musically and she agreed. And then she is lost in memories again. Life-guarding at a summer camp, the peace of God's creation surrounding her...the stories accompany eyes full of tears. We polished off a slice of cheesecake and I drove her back home. "Thank-you for lunch. It was really beautiful," she whispered as she hugged me good-bye. "I'll be praying for you my sister," I responded. And looking into my eyes, she smiled, laughed a little, and walked away.