Dear Inner Circle,
There are a few moments on the calendar when a little over-indulging is good for the soul. Here’s hoping that you got the chance to do so with some good chocolate over the weekend just past. As a savoury over sweets kind of person, it only took a couple of eggs to topple me into a bit of a coma by Sunday evening after an amazing weekend of celebrations. There’s nothing quite like marking the Easter event at Wayside. You will find a packed house full of people from all walks of life with little or no faith in organised religion, but all filled with the belief that people are deeply valuable and worthy of love. In my excitement, I hastily misquoted a few scriptural passages that went by unnoticed but when I stumbled on a lyric from Bob Dylan, I was promptly corrected by three people on the spot. There’s no place quite like Wayside.
There is someone who comes in once a week to offer hand massages, and all she comes with is some oil and the most beautiful demeanour. She possesses a rare quality of a gentle yet powerful presence combined with a deep wisdom that comes with age. When our hairdresser is here, there is a long list of men and women who scramble to get their name on the waiting list for a long overdue trim, but with our masseuse it seems that it is only the men who jostle to get their time with her. It is quite a sight to watch this wonderful woman pour her grandma energy into these men, many of whom have spent years in prison. And while they present with tough exteriors, within moments they are putty in her hands. All are craving the gentle touch of a maternal figure, that for them has been denied for far too long. To be a fly on the wall while she is at work is to witness the healing power that love and a little attention make possible. Most of what gets sold as a beauty treatment doesn’t even come close to this treatment of sheer beauty.
We are all finally getting used to gathering again, realising that we are physically wired for connection and community. This is one our highest human truths and it isn’t an optional extra as our wellbeing is tied up within each other’s, we quite literally make each other more human and humane. So just as we are coming back together, could there be a worse time to call an election? We will be reminded daily of our differences and divisions right when we are more ready than ever to overcome them.
Sadly, one of the mantras will be about being “tough on defence and crime”. We desperately need reform in our prison system. Did we not learn the psychic toll it takes on us to be separated from society for the past two years and the struggle it is to re-emerge and re-engage? Can we extend that kind of thinking and compassion to those we lock up in our prisons? We have dedicated one of our most experienced team members, Una, to caring for our people who are falling in and out of jail, and the stories she will tell you will break your heart. All she sees are men who yearn for a mother’s touch, and even a mother’s discipline, not the monsters we are told we need to be kept from at all costs. Many will accuse me of being soft, but surely there is a balance between the punishment of crime and the rehabilitation of those who commit them. Right now, all we have is a system that, while staffed with some really good people, is skewed towards punitive measures that last long after any custodial sentence has been served. My apologies for the rant, but we can do so much better, not only by the people who are being punished, but also for their families who have to live with the impact that this system has upon them – it isn’t just one person being punished in this system. As a community, we all suffer when one of us suffers.
Thanks for being part of our precious Inner Circle,
Rev. Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO