This time of year often lends itself to a retrospective glance at life. It must be all the graduation ceremonies we see that take us back to earlier memories. During the 80s, there was not enough hair gel in the land to satisfy my thirsty curls, and my attempts to tame them backfired. Still, I put in an earnest effort down at the Macleod YWCA’s blue light disco after our primary school graduation, but it was for little reward. I was sidelined to the edges as others celebrated in the centre. As a small brown boy in a predominantly white suburb, I was acutely aware that I was utterly different from everyone in that room.
The feeling of being unwanted, misunderstood, or unloved is one I see and understand in the faces of many who turn to Wayside Chapel at this time of year as families are busy making plans that they know do not involve them. As Sydney starts to wind down, we pick up the pace in planning for our Christmas Day Street Picnic. Everything we do and plan for is done by keeping the faces of the lost and lonely or people experiencing homelessness in the centre of our minds. Our Christmas celebration is only made possible through an entire army of people from all over Sydney and from all walks of life who pour their love and their gifts of service into the day. It is truly the city of Sydney at its finest moment.
Once you give someone an object it is gone, but there are gifts, like love, that can only increase the more you give, and they are the best kind. We are very careful that we give everyone the chance to give. We joyously celebrate together because the community that is created at Wayside is focussed on the giving and receiving of these gifts. Not just what “we” can provide for “them”, but making space for the contributions of others. Not from a hubris that allows or permits, but from humility that makes space for gratitude, delight and surprise.
At Wayside Chapel, celebrations can take many forms. Yesterday we conducted the first funeral on our premises for a long time. The man’s ashes have been patiently waiting in my office nook with some of his other unclaimed companions, and yesterday he bade them farewell, as we farewelled him. He had been a much-loved visitor of Wayside for over 30 years, living on the streets or in unstable housing before we helped him secure a safe place to call home. If kindness were a currency then we celebrated the life of one of our nation’s wealthiest men. He had a love for chess, backgammon, terrible jokes and caring for others far more than he cared for himself. The chapel was as full as we could get it with mourners, each telling a story of the impact he had on their life. He knew how to make everyone feel like the most important person in the room. Some people die with titles, others with the testimonies of the impact they had in their lives. The altar was decorated with the loves of his life, a picture of his partner, a cup of tea, some cans for recycling and a chessboard. Together, just like in the game of chess, we surrendered our hearts and bid farewell to a king.
Thanks for being a part of our precious Inner Circle,
Pastor & CEO