Asylum…

Argyll and Bute hospital 3

 

Something I wrote for a Greenbelt event a couple of years ago- which came back to me recently when discussing brokenness. Originally it was written to make comparisons between organised church and psychiatric care.

There was a concern in the land

In every town the roads were lined with beggars

There were homeless orphans and widows cast out onto the streets

Lunatics were stoned by children

And melancholics drowned their sorrows with gin

The pain of it all was in the middle of us

The Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping

 

So the good people gathered

“What is needed” they said “Is asylum.”

A safe home where broken people can live out their lives in care-

Protected from all of the mess of life,

Fed and warm and watered.

So money was gathered

Stones were shaped and raised

Staff were retained and clothed in starched clothing

-The heavy doors were opened wide in welcome

 

And so they came- the halt, the sick, the lame

The motherless and the pregnant child

All those broken by worry and grief

The shakers and the mutterers

All the awkward squad

The outsiders now came inside

They were home at last

old painting, Argyll and Bute hospital grounds

 

It went well for a while

All was orderly and planned

Starved frames filled out

Songs were sung again in the entertainment hall

Gardens were laid and tended

Sheets danced in the evening sunlight

And a bell rang out to warn of the dowsing of night candles

 

But time passed, and shadows fell

Budgets were tight, and the paint peeled on windows

The good folk who had once been so generous had other calls on their coin

A few still visited on feast days but for the most part

Out of sight became out of mind.

uniformed building

 

And there was trouble

The awkward squad was still awkward

The asylum split into ‘us’ and ‘them’

 

‘We’ had roles- uniforms and clipboards, rotas and registers

Big bunches of keys danced at our belts

We had dreams- of advancement, romance and families

We had homes away from this home

 

‘They’ stood the other side of our desks

Dirty and lacking in motivation

Ungrateful and manipulative

Un co-operative with our assessments

Lacking insight into the nature of their dysfunction.

They had ceased to be like us

Rather, they lived out regulated half-lives

They ceased to be flesh

And became instead a collection of paper

In manila folders

listening

Despite all the material provision- something was missing

Despite all the person centred plans, the person was not at the centre

Despite the close press of humanity, there was no family

Despite all the risk assessments, there was no adventure

Despite all the planned activity, there is no purpose

Despite the safety of the high walls, I am still destroyed

 

So it was that care became captivity

Individuals became invisible

And home became hollow

And toxic

While Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping

locked door

4 thoughts on “Asylum…

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