Dear Inner Circle,
Wayside’s mission is built on the observation that people are lonely – not the kind of loneliness that is simply lack of company but the kind of loneliness that pervades even in, perhaps especially in, a crowd. In the Western world, many different cultural shifts in history have led to “the privatisation of the self”. Most of these shifts have been slow but profound so that a modern person rarely questions the assumptions of their privatised view of themselves and the world. In this culture, even our attempts to help people, generally render individuals as lonely. We turn people into objects such as clients, patients, customers, and we pride ourselves on professional distance. Instead of meeting people, we tend to deliver services. People are rarely people to be met but rather they become problems to be solved.
Wayside’s mission seeks to be counter to our culture. When a ‘penny drops’ when someone is with others and for them, everything changes (and nothing changes). When life is imploding and life is dissipating, most look for something to add to ease the sense of emptiness. The driving question for most who come to Wayside initially is, “what can you give me?”. If a person is ‘met’ rather than ‘fixed’, the driving question moves from “what can you give me?” to “how can I help?”. It’s a sign that a life is beginning to turn around. People who are met and valued, tend to become future focused rather than past focused. They begin to think about what is possible rather than what is impossible. Their present moment is an artefact of the future. The future is always bigger than ourselves. Our future is either a destiny or a fate.
Underneath it all is a conviction that there is no such thing as a single human being. We are hard-wired as social creatures. The word, “I”, could at least, only describe half of something – “you and me” is the basic human unit. When people get this, they will move toward health and then all we have to do is support, encourage, learn and remember that our humanity blossoms together. Otherwise, being human is a competition and everyone is your competitor. It is the obvious danger for anyone who seeks to be fundamentally a helper, that they become part of the dividing, lonely problem, deriving a perverse pleasure in being a manager.
Wayside’s mission can blow through the building, lifting, and liberating both visitors, staff and volunteers, or it can hold a mirror to reveal our barren and petty attempts to control and fix. Every inspiration proves the truth of no ‘us and them’ and every bitter revelation is an uncomfortable, inconvenient opportunity to grow. The mission, the awesome, always patiently waits for us to be captured, inspired, and then invited to enter our own humanity.
This Sunday is World Kindness Day. Kindness really is a gift that often costs us nothing except a moment imbued with thoughtfulness. In a world where we often find ourselves crying out for justice, kindness is a whisper to all our hearts that another world is not only possible, but a lot closer than we think. I had a long drive with someone whose life was touched by Wayside, and as we spoke he told me at least seven different points that were his moment of transformation, from a cup of tea, to the right sized underwear, to a t-shirt with his favourite band being put aside till he turned up. The truth is that the moment of any turn-around is always unselfconscious yet often it is the build up of a thousand simple acts of kindness, which all matter.
Thank you for being part of our precious Inner Circle.
Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor