Dear Inner Circle,

We all personally know the impact of a bad night’s sleep. A few broken nights and many of us are not only like a bear with a sore head, but we are also more susceptible to illness as our immune systems are weakened. I reminded myself of this when I began a conversation the other morning with someone who has lived through years of broken sleep. Gently wishing them a good morning led to an outburst that was liberally smattered with the “Wayside Greeting”, which most would describe as a litany of expletives. It was so aggressive and unexpected that we stared at each other in silence and then both burst out laughing. It was a healthy reminder of one of the gifts of Wayside, that a good sense of humour is a key asset for surviving difficult times.

Lack of sleep is perhaps more dangerous now than it ever has been, so it is beautiful to see the opposite in action. One of my favourite daily rituals is running into friends who we have helped move off the streets and into local hotels. The tangible effects of a few good nights sleep are immediately obvious. Can you believe that Wayside, working with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and other partners, has played a role in helping over 800 people off the streets and into hotels over the past few weeks? That will be an investment of a few thousand nights of sleep restored back to weary souls. I delight as I hear tales of hot showers, bathrobes and binge-watching.

Immune systems are being boosted by regular and unbroken nights of sleep, but that’s not the only benefit. I heard raw honesty from a young woman who, in a moment of vulnerability, told me how she convinced herself it is finally okay not to drink herself to sleep. She did this by reminding herself that finally, she was in a safe place. It took her a few nights to do it, but the pride in her smile was worth a king’s ransom.

This morning I saw a look from a young man that I haven’t seen in years. The fact that I saw his face at all was cause for a small celebration – he is normally too busy jittering along planning his next hustle or looking over his shoulder in case the last one catches up with him. Instead, he stopped, looked me in the eyes and I saw in them arresting beauty because they were full of hope for a future away from drugs and towards restoration with his daughter.

I watch proudly as our people persist with another person who keeps ‘forgetting’ to show up to his hotel. This isn’t evidence of ingratitude, because for him it is a huge, scary step forward. The streets have become familiar so the fear and anxiety of submitting to a room with a lock on the door is still a hurdle too high for him. I see the care and patience as they continue to encourage him to move at a pace that is comfortable for him.

When things get tough, I think about all the good that is happening right now. I am grateful that we have been able to house vulnerable people, even if only temporarily, into otherwise vacant hotel rooms. I know that a room is a great start and that more is required, but so much that once seemed impossible is now happening.

An Aboriginal Elder once told me that the best way to move healthily into the future is to move backwards into it. Like rowing a boat, looking back on all that is known as we sail into an unknowable future. It’s an image that fills me with hope and gratitude.

Thanks for being a part of our Inner Circle,

Jon

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