Dear Inner Circle,

Many years ago, when the girls were small, my wife Lisa went away for a few days. At dinner, we were all were sitting around, and Miss 4 asked to, “say grace”. A little friend of Miss 4 was our guest for the evening and asked “Do you usually do this at your house?” To which our girl replied, “Not usually, but that’s because my mummy is a good cook!”

Over the last few decades of eating great food, I have had some serious intermittent gut pain and so I finally relented to some tests and it has been revealed that I have a stone in my gall bladder. I was joking with Miss 4, who has now evolved into Miss 16, pointing out how strong I had been to bear this pain for a long time without troubling the family. She stared me down, “No dad, it’s weakness when you can’t admit you’re in pain”. For a moment the seas parted again, and I was re-captured by the strong and unique creature, my daughter, my teacher, my friend…who is still on loan to us for a short time, until adulthood whisks her away into the wider world.

There’s a lot I learn about unconditional love from being at Wayside. There is a woman who regularly visits us who exists between parks and prisons. There is often an odour that accompanies her, so when it gets overwhelming one of our staff will silently usher her and gently coax her, using all her maternal energy, into the shower where she will help her get clean and wash her matted hair. Tears from our visitor will soon flow, not of protest but of the remembered pain of being a little girl, “Mummy, Mummy” she repeats. The showers take her back to an unsafe childhood, and through sobs, our staff member comforts her and presents her with towel and toothpaste tenderly… soon the cries for mummy change to the panicked enquiries “ where is my baby who I have just given birth to?” She has had some children taken away, so our worker will comfort and reassure her that we are here for her and that she is now ok and safe. Our worker will then carefully dress her as she would a sleepy toddler, and assist her with multiple layers of clothing, starting with a couple of new clean pairs of underwear, a response that gives her some psychological assurance. Then the knots and tangles will be lovingly worked through. These tender moments are a gift, where our vision is met, and love rises beyond unfathomable hurt that has been caused by hate. A glimpse of hope is seen in those moments, and I doubt that there are many workplaces where such purity of love and presence is truly felt … yet it’s just another day at the Wayside.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day again. Love around here can often look like providing a warm mug of coffee, a hot shower and a clean pair of undies. On Sunday amidst the deluge, we opened the doors and people literally poured in, soaked to the bone. If walking to your car has left you wet and annoyed in the past few days, can you imagine what it would be like for people sleeping rough after three days of torrential rain, with nowhere to shelter at night? Just a few days ago, we ran out of dry clothes and socks due to the demand. On Sunday, it was so heart-warming to see one of our angels who works here, Diana, immediately firing up the kettle, handing out cups of tea and making a fuss over every person who came in. She ran between the washing machines and dryers, to ensure clean towels were on hand for people throughout the day. What our staff and volunteers do is remarkable, but it’s beyond remarkable that all is done with a smile and such warmth.

As a romantic gesture this Valentine’s Day, share the love with some of our people who are sleeping rough. I ask that you to forego purchasing gifts of chocolates and flowers in favour of keeping someone dry, warm and clothed and help keep us stocked full for 2020 with undies and essentials for the year ahead. Donate to our “Nothing Says I Love You Like A Clean Pair of Undies” Appeal here.

Thanks for being a part of the magic that happens here,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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