Dear Inner Circle

Growing up in a public housing tower can be tough. It is one thing to grow up in a household where after the bills are paid, there might not be enough left over for food to be put on the table, a school trip, or a uniform. To add the weight of living somewhere that is subject to more commentary than compassion, brings a burden that no one should have to bear. Imagine for a moment turning on the television and hearing leaders and commentators spreading a message of division about where people live, rather than a vision for unity through these dark times. The day where your postcode isn’t a barrier is still a way off and until then we need to call out any attempts to, once again, make the poor our society’s whipping boy.

In the decade my family lived in a public housing estate we regularly saw acts of exceptional beauty. It was common to see people give others the clothes off their backs or their last cent for someone who needed it more. Any lesson learned about true generosity happened in that place for us. I once visited a single mum who had hidden a neighbour and her kids for a few weeks while they fled domestic violence. When I told her she was an angel, she retorted, “It ain’t about being an angel love, it’s how we survive”. What a remarkable insight, that for some, these attributes are not optional extras for character development, but they point to the fact that humanity shines brightest in the toughest places. We thought we would be there to give, but soon we found that our most valuable offering was simply to empty our hands, to observe, listen and then bear witness to the beauty that surrounded us, to name it and to nurture it.

One of the keys to making life work in that place was the cultivation of porous boundaries between households. The greatest contribution we made was to create a safe space in our house for people to take a break and recharge over cups of tea, or a game of pool in our garage. One kid used to just sit in the corner of our lounge room. What I thought was chaos was peace for him. Having a corner all to himself and a cup of tea was a haven before he headed back home where there were 21 people crammed into a three-bedroom house. My heart goes out to all the families under the strain of lockdown in Victoria right now.

Here at Wayside we are moving so slowly with restrictions still in place, as we know this virus respects no boundaries. Thanks for your love and patience. I will be taking a quick week off next week to chase after my teenagers for a while.

Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,

Jon

PS. I was asked to speak on ABC TV’s The Drum program last night about the impact that the pandemic is having on the charity sector. Click here to view episode and scroll through to 30:05 to watch the segment.

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