Dear Inner Circle,

This week we stopped for a moment to hold a memorial service to coincide with International Overdose Awareness Day. We took some time out to remember all those we have had torn from our lives through addiction. We read a psalm of lament, listened to Pink Floyd and then we tied ribbons onto the fence surrounding our memorial garden with the names of those we have loved and lost. Sadly, if you become a part of our community and you haven’t lost someone to addiction already, you probably will not have to wait long. Amongst our small gathering were the faces of those for whom we have buried partners, siblings, children and friends. Tears were shed but there was no sentimentality or pretence, we simply faced reality together and shared in a unity of spirit as we offered up some prayers for our loved ones. We welcome the conversations that are happening at a policy level for how we respond to people with addictions. For us it isn’t about chest beating or ideology, it’s about not having to bury our sisters and brothers prematurely.

Some of the greatest lessons I learnt in life were as a youth worker in a juvenile detention centre with young fellas. These kids, who the state had deemed as worthless, were some of my greatest teachers in the school of life. I was once running a group with them that was slipping out of my control fast because I asked a foolish ice-breaker “What’s the easiest car to steal?”. As the boasting got louder and my rapport built collectively with each person in the room, I waited for a lull and then asked the boys to describe their fathers to me. The circle immediately fell silent. Words that were flowing freely suddenly dried up. Distance. One young lad described how he had never met his father but on his 7th birthday, his mum told him that his father was going to visit him at his party at the local swimming pool. He was so excited that while his friends swam he waited by the front door, his face pressed up against the glass, he waited there for three hours before his mum dragged an inconsolable little boy away. There was a pub next door to the swimming pool, and it turned out his dad had never made it past the bar. He looked at me in the eyes and told me, “That’s the day I stopped caring about anything”. It wasn’t an abusive father, but an absent one that set him on a path of externalising his pain onto others with brutal effect. His life turned around though, the day his mum sent him to live with his grandfather and uncle. The love and patience these men showed him as he went to work with his uncle made all the difference in his life. He is now a proud father and youth worker himself and I have the honour of calling him a friend. You don’t need to be a father to be a role model in someone’s life. I salute all the “uncles” and “pops” out there who have made all the difference. Recently a few of our team from the Aboriginal Team started up a men’s group, the Warrior Within. The potential of the participants will hopefully be realised because of the love and belief that our team places in these guys, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

As a father myself, I pay homage to all fathers out there who are doing their best. For what can sometimes be a complicated relationship, there is still no greater feeling than being able to guide your kids and see them grow into their own individual selves. I got my standard socks, jocks and chocolates for Father’s Day, and as I looked at my girls, I couldn’t think of anything better than to spend time and celebrate with my family. One of my kids got even got me a pair of Superman socks. Being of Indian heritage, I think that’s a fair call because, after all, India is the only place on earth where a man can run faster than a train. 

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Jon 

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