Many years ago, when Lisa and I were fledgling youth workers, a local community health centre contacted us about a group of teenagers from families who had fled to Australia to seek asylum from East Timor. Their parents were eager for them to have some positive social interactions and healthy activities in their lives. One of the parents, who I became mates with, also confessed that he wanted positive people in his children’s lives. At the time the media were providing a platform for our political leaders to line up and take turns to talk about who was being tougher on people seeking asylum. For those of us who took the time to speak with the people being spoken about, we heard that they were forming the impression that everyone in Australia hated them. The impact on adolescent development was cruel. That was nearly 25 years ago, I wish times had changed.
So we decided to run a Friday night activities program for the kids. It was fun-filled chaos and one of the kids, now a passionate human rights lawyer, remembers it as one of the strangest times of his life. Every week his parents would drop him off at a community hall to have strangers greet him, feed him and then make him play strangely-named Aussie games, like “Barley” and “Brandy” for hours on end. We began holding discussions at the end of the evening, and one night, as we approached Christmas, got to talking about “wishes”. One 12 year old girl edged forward and whispered, “I wish for all of us to have permanent residence for Christmas, because I don’t want to die.” That moment broke our hearts.
At Wayside we speak of “Moments of Mission” – which are much more than random acts of kindness, they are when our mission of “creating community of no us and them” spontaneously springs to life. These happen when we find ourselves being caught up with others in something so much bigger than ourselves. Purpose is born through the people we walk in relationship with and the lessons they teach us, which shape our perspectives and make them deeply personal.
Our hearts weren’t made to hold the pain of the world. Rather they are made to hold the pain of neighbourhoods and the relationships in which we find ourselves located. I guess what I am trying to encourage you to do, is not take the pain of the entire world into your heart right now. Focus on who your life has been intricately woven with. It is then that we can gently await those moments to land in our hearts at a pace that can really move us.
Thanks for being part of our beautifully woven Inner Circle,
PS. Tune in online to our free Facebook Live event tonight from 7pm where I will be in conversation with Rev. Graham Long talking about how to survive lockdown “the Wayside way”. RSVP here.