For a Safer City

Dear Inner Circle,

Every morning at 11:05 I receive a phone call from a well-known regular to Wayside who delivers the day’s COVID numbers and follows it up with a terrible, corny joke. If you know this fella, you’ll know that he’s fragile under the best of conditions and so lockdown is knocking him around. It’s good for both of us that we can have a laugh each day. It saves me listening to the radio for the daily score, and I’d rather get my news from him every day, as it’s a nice way to move from despair to delight in a moment. Yesterday he got off the phone by saying “Well I’ll be off – faster than a face mask in Texas!” I highly recommend that if you are locked into the daily cycle of press conferences, you consider getting someone else to deliver the news with a joke that makes you roll your eyes.

Navigating even the most efficient systems is a complex task at the best of times. “If you build it, they will come” is a famously misquoted line from the movie Field of Dreams. It takes more than just setting up a system, we find that it’s far more accurate to say “If you walk with someone they will go.” Quietly, and with public health precautions in place, we have started accompanying those who are feeling a little overwhelmed to the local vaccination centres and sitting with them through the process. I couldn’t be prouder of the way, person by person, that we are helping make our city safer for everyone.

Many years ago, as a green social work student, I was fortunate enough to be granted a student placement in a children’s community centre in the heart of a slum in Bangkok. Life in the slum can be brutal and childhoods can disappear in a heartbeat, but there are many wonderful people, providing education, health care and activities as a way to hold back the tide of despair and provide pathways out of the despair that lurks silently nearby.

A local chef and friend from the slum started a cooking school that shot to international fame when her cookbook, “Cooking with Poo” hit the top of the international bestsellers list. Poo and her team toured the world and stayed with us in Sydney. Late one night we were sitting on our balcony after a long day. Recently our community had been caught in a gang dispute and the neighbourhood was on edge, I foolishly asked what they thought of Australia. “We were expecting this country to be amazing, rich, and safe. Why, Mr, Jon, are there children on the streets late at night here, when it is so dangerous? That would never happen in the slum!” We blushed, (well if I could have I would have), because the answer was shameful. The streets were a safer place for some of them, safer than their own houses. Now is the time for good neighbours to stand up as our communities fall apart under pressure, showing the way forward with love.

Not everyone can isolate in safety, and as we look at protracted lockdowns in NSW, my heart grows heavy for not only our rough sleepers but the couch surfers and those in dangerous households. Please join us tonight for a Facebook Live at 7pm to listen to Voices From the Streets – the Wingspan Edition to hear from some amazing young people whose lives and stories will change us all.

Thanks for being a part of our Inner Circle,


Jon Owen

Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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