Dear Inner Circle,

In his most famous speech, Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt of a world that did not judge people by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. He spoke at a time when criminality, indolence and dysfunction were equated with race and his words continue to cut through to our hearts in a world that still needs to heed them. This week in anti-poverty week, we also dream of living in a world where people who are trapped in poverty are not judged along the same lines. It is an all too common reflex action to look at someone who’s world has fallen apart and wonder what they did wrong. Such a judgement is mere self-protection. If we can apportion fault, it absolves us of any need to be responsive to such people and enables us to move on with a minimum of fuss. What I love about this place is that there is a maximum of fuss, as I write this I can hear quite loudly, “Now come back here, you’re going to need to put your underpants on!” This line is trotted out with love most mornings in households with toddlers, but it occasionally gets a run at Wayside as well.

This is the time of year when my diary resembles a Sydney traffic jam. As I was rushing out of the building this morning, almost immediately after walking in, I was ushered over by someone with something urgent to tell me. I gave clear body language that I was in a hurry, but he still waved me over. My silent protest continued as I began shifting my weight from foot to foot in annoyance when I looked into his eyes, and was met with a beautiful smile as he told me how much he appreciates what Wayside is doing for him and how he valued our friendship. For me, this moment is now suspended in time. Most of my most precious memories have come as interruptions. I am one of the richest men in the world because I am one of the most interrupted. Poverty isn’t just about a lack of cash, it is also about a lack of connection, and that means it can be present in a life that on the surface appears to be a good one.

There’s a young woman I pass most mornings on my way into work as she is waking up in the park. She is the same age as our own precious daughter. I know a small fraction of her story and yet my heart breaks as little by little, she shares more with me. If she is awake, she now leaps up to me and asks for a hug and a prayer, demanding that every morning I come up with a new one. It has become a little game between us, and this morning I had another one ready to go. She interrupted me before I could start, “Say that one again, the one that ends with, ‘You are precious in my sight and I love you’”. The words aren’t magic. They are mere carriages that bring the care of an inadequate pastor to a hungry heart that longs to see, be seen and to be loved.

People often ask me what they can actually do to help people who are stuck in a cycle of poverty. Last year, myself and over 100 people from Wayside’s community, walked in the very first Long Walk Home, our 28km fundraising walk from Parramatta to Kings Cross in honour of people experiencing homelessness. 28km is the approximate distance someone sleeping rough walks in a week just looking for a place to sleep. It was an incredible, eye-opening experience, one that I invite all people with a passion for helping others to take part in this year. So to you, our dear Inner Circle, I invite you to walk with me this year in Long Walk Home 2019 and take steps to help people experiencing homelessness and raise money for Wayside. It’s free to register and you can do so here.

Come and walk with me.

Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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